What do tic tacs, an older sister, a DVD, and a carton of eggs have in common? They are all accomplices to one of the biggest decisions in each of my children’s lives. The decision to ask Jesus into their hearts.
Each is a story in and of itself, but I will attempt to summarize them briefly.
For Kiersten, it was tic tacs. At age three, she was adamantly against anything to do with asking Jesus into her heart (I know this because as an over-eager mother of my first child, I was trying really hard to get her to!). I finally realized it would be wise to just drop the issue (for fear that I was actually pushing her farther and farther away from ever making that decision!). Several months (or more) later, Kiersten came to me and asked, “Mommy, what is a Christian?”
Surprised at her sudden interest, I gladly (yet cautiously) explained to her what it meant to be a Christian. I was equally surprised when she declared that she would like to become a Christian; she wanted to ask Jesus into her heart. So we prayed together. Immediately upon finishing the prayer, I discovered the reason for her sudden interest in Christianity:
“Now I can have some tic tacs,” she gleefully announced, with the “Amen” barely off our tongues. I knew there must be a story behind this.
Apparently, in a very irresponsible moment, my mom informed Kiersten that only Christians could have tic tacs (“Who are those tic tacs for?” Kiersten had asked her, eyeing the ever-so-tempting tiny, colorful pieces of candy. “Christians,” responded my mom, not knowing what she was setting in motion. That’s when Kiersten traipsed off to find me…).
Of course my mom and I, once we had realized what had happened, tried to set things straight. We told Kiersten that Grandma was just being silly; you didn’t have to be a Christian to have a tic tac. Asking Jesus into her heart was a big decision; one we only wanted her to make when she was ready. She could have a tic tac without being a Christian.
She informed us that she was glad she asked Jesus into her heart, she believed everything I had told her, and she wanted to be a Christian. Not just for the tic tac.
Skeptical, I observed her and talked with her throughout the following weeks. It became clear that her decision was sincere. As far as a three-year-old could grasp, she had taken that step of faith. She had begun the journey, and in a way that I could have never conjured up! God had used a tic tac (and a silly Grandma) to soften her little heart towards Him.
With Micah, it was big sister Kiersten. After my experience with Kiersten, I was determined that there was no need to try to push that decision on Micah too early. But apparently Kiersten had other plans.
I may never know (until I get to heaven) what discussion led up to this moment, but I will never forget the day that I overheard my six-year-old daughter leading my three-year-old son in a prayer asking Jesus into his heart, while sitting at the bottom of our stairs. If only I had recorded it!
In the midst of my busy life (baby brother Brennan was only a few weeks old at this time), God used an eager and engaged six-year-old sister to help Micah take the first step in his journey. To this day (six years later), Micah remembers asking Jesus into his heart at the bottom of the stairs with Kiersten.
An finally, Brennan…and the DVD and carton eggs. Just before Easter, when Brennan was four-years-old, he became quite interested in a children’s DVD about the life of Jesus. He had discovered it amongst the many DVDs in our media drawer. It soon became his favorite movie; he literally watched it every day for weeks.
During this time, Brennan received a box of Resurrection Eggs from his preschool. He was quite intrigued by these eggs and wanted me to tell him all about them. So, we sat down on the floor and began going through the eggs together.
Each egg contained an item and a bible verse. These items and verses each represented an event from the last week of Christ’s life. So, as Brennan pulled the leaf out of egg number one, I told him that it represented the palm branches that people waved on Palm Sunday as Christ entered Jerusalem. Amazingly, I didn’t have to explain too much, because Brennan was quite familiar with each event (from watching the movie). When he pulled out the picture of praying hands (from egg number three) and I told him about Jesus praying in the garden, Brennan immediately remembered it from the DVD, and informed me that that was right before the bad guys got Him.
Towards the end of the Resurrection Eggs (egg number nine, to be exact, the one with a spear in it), I asked Brennan if he knew why Jesus died. It hit me that Brennan knew a lot about the story of Jesus dying, but I wondered if he knew why He had died. His response was that Jesus died because bad guys got Him.
“Yes,” I agreed, “but He really died because He loves you.” And I continued to explain Jesus’ purpose in coming to earth and dying on the cross.
I had no intention of encouraging him to ask Jesus into his heart right then. I just wanted to begin the conversation with him, and explain the why behind the events of the Easter story. And he was an eager audience.
As a way to convey to Brennan that this is something to do when he’s ready, I told him that I have Jesus in my heart, Daddy has Jesus in his heart, and so do Kiersten and Micah. I was about to say, “And some day, when you’re ready, you might decide to ask Jesus into your heart.”
I didn’t get a chance to say that because, just as I was telling him about Kiersten and Micah, he started to cry. Really cry.
“What’s wrong?” I inquired.
“I want Jesus in my heart, too,” he sobbed.
“It’s okay, Brennan,” I reassured him, “you can ask Him when you’re ready. You’re still little.”
“I want to ask him now,” he cried.
So, we prayed. And Brennan asked Jesus into his heart. Once again, God was at work. The timing of the DVD and the Resurrection Eggs. And even a little brother’s desire to not be left out…to be like the rest of his family. God used those things to start the journey in a four-year-old’s life.
I share all of these stories because I am so amazed at how I had nothing to do with the timing of any of them. And I’m so amazed that each child had their own unique angle on what led them to make their decision.
Yes, I had to be able to discuss with them what it means to be a Christian, and how to become a Christian, and answer their questions, but I feel strongly that God gave me the right words.
I am also aware that this decision is only the beginning of a life of learning about God and loving God. They will grow in their knowledge and understanding. And my prayer is that God will become more and more real to them each day. Those initial prayers are not the end of the story, nor are they a guarantee that they will never have doubts or that they will never stray from their beliefs. I believe that a day will come when they will need to embrace this faith in a new way. They will want to recommit their lives to Christ with a new understanding. Not because their childlike prayer wasn’t “real,” but because they will be older. It will be the next major step in having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
I use to think (before I had kids), that once all my children had accepted Christ as their Saviour (if, indeed they did), that I could breathe a huge sigh of relief. My “job” would be done. I now believe that this is when the real work begins. The story isn’t over; it is just beginning. God is and will be using me, my husband, and others in their lives to live out our faith and to teach and to train. Ultimately, they are His. But He has entrusted them to us.
I love how God works in mysterious ways. How He takes common things, common people, and common events, weaves them together in His perfect timing, and uses them to draw people to Him. To soften hearts. Tic tacs, a big sister, a DVD, and a carton of eggs. Who knew that they would all be key elements in the spiritual journeys of my three children?