Patrick was four and Anna was six; they were playing outside on the swingset. I stopped to look out the window just to check on them. At that moment, the next-door neighbor Josh, who was seven, came over to join the fun. They were going up the ladder and down the slide over and over. Isn’t it amazing how children enjoy repetition without boredom?
Patrick had his hands on the rail to climb up, when Josh came running around for another turn. He grabbed Patrick’s arm and started to pull him away from the ladder. Patrick hung on. Josh pulled again. Patrick hung on. Josh was pulling one more time when Patrick turned his head toward Josh and yelled “NO-O-O!” in Josh’s face. Josh backed up a full step while Patrick went up the ladder.
As a young dad I was proud of my son for taking a stand.
As our children grow up they must learn to say NO to many things: to bullies, to temptation, to fear. How do we build that into them?
I have thought about why Patrick who was almost three years younger than Josh dared to stand up to him. It wasn’t our training that caused him to resist. It was something else, something deeper than a lesson on courage or character.
I think it was this: inside him there was A MEANINGFUL YES.
What I mean by this is that Patrick had found his own personal satisfaction in going up and down the slide. It was real to him, it was now, it meant something to him. He was willing to resist the pull of a detractor in order to achieve his goal. He cared about what he was doing.
This is what I want for our kids when it comes to following Jesus Christ. I want them to taste and see that the Lord is good, in fact, the best. I want Jesus to be real to them. I want them to see that Jesus is alive now, today. I want them to find meaning in Jesus. Then they will care enough to resist those things that try to pull them away.
How do we help this process along?
First, make Jesus real to our children by including him in our everyday lives. Give thanks for meals, for the day. Let them see us pray to the invisible Lord. Let them hear us pray as problems arise; they will see his answers. Devout Muslims pray five times a day as ritual; it is required. We pray because Jesus is alive!
Secondly, Jesus and his kingdom is now. He told his disciples that the Kingdom is at hand. He cares about our daily issues for has experienced our earth-life. He understands us. He helps us. In turn, we help others. Let us express the life of Jesus in us by helping others and including our children in the act. This is one way that they taste and see Christ now.
Finally, let us include the words of the Lord in our routines. The written word given to us interprets life and situations all around us. Daily, little by little exposure to God’s word gives eternal meaning to what we do. All of us need this perspective.
He is the Divine Yes. It is this great YES that builds in our children the power to say NO.
For as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes. 1 Corinthians 1:20