I grew up in church all my life. Every Sunday school and big church service. Every Wednesday night youth group. Every children’s and youth event during the summer. Every VBS and Sports Camp. Every youth camp. Every mission trip. Pretty much every time the doors to the church were open, I was there.
But I did not truly know Jesus Christ as my own personal Savior until the middle of college.
Sure, I knew a lot of things about Him. I had learned most of the stories from the Bible. I knew what it looked like to lead a ‘Christian life.’ In middle and high school, I would have even claimed that I was a Christian. Because it was before I actually knew what it meant to be in love with Jesus and seriously desire to follow after Him.
But you know what happened in high school? I didn’t feel like going to church or youth group anymore. I was really liking what the world had to offer and wanted to enjoy that more. Church started to feel very goody-two-shoes to me and I didn’t want that life anymore. I wanted to know what it felt like to live my own life with my own rules and hang out on the weekends making choices that church was going to make me feel bad about.
And yet, my parents still made me go. Every Sunday morning. Every Wednesday night. That boyfriend that was probably bad news? They even had the audacity to humiliate me by requiring him to go with me. Did I argue and try to find every excuse in the book to get out of it? Of course. But every Sunday morning and every Wednesday night, it was an expectation of our household and so I was there. Did that mean that my choices on the weekend got better? Absolutely not. But I was at church hearing the Gospel preached into my life whether I wanted to be there or not.
And then college came. When I finally got to make my own decision about attending church so I didn’t go. Maybe for a week or two just because it felt so ingrained in me, but that was it. I was finally free! So I lived my own life with my own rules. Until emptiness set in. The feeling that there had to be something more. The void in my life that I just couldn’t shake.
The summer between my sophomore and junior year, I was at home from college and it was a Sunday morning which meant attending church with my parents. And that’s when God grabbed me. Reminded me of my emptiness and of the fullness that I could find in HIM. Showed me there was a difference in attending church and actually living out the Gospel. And that’s when I made the decision that would forever transform my world. I wanted to have a relationship with Christ and live my life following Him. After so many years just attending church, I finally GOT IT.
I know how easy it could have been for my parents to just let it go and given me the out. Fears of me being driven away from the church could have paralyzed them. Doubts that they were doing the right thing could have kept them from making me go. And I am so thankful it didn’t. Because even though I may have been a teenager that wanted my own way and thought I knew better, God was using that time to plant seeds in my life and expose me to Him. I may not have noticed it or even cared, but it was happening. And ultimately when I finally realized that huge void in my life, I knew it was because I was missing Jesus.
As a parent now, I understand the burden of spiritually shepherding the little one that the Lord has given me. It brings me to my knees the hard decisions that will need to be made. Living for Christ and our culture do not always agree. In fact, they rarely do. The world is fighting for our children’s (and our own) attention and we have to decide what will be priority in our home. It can come in simple ways such as busyness that will easily distract us away from the Lord. It may even be ‘good’ things that we want for our children such as excelling in school or a specific sport. But at what point do we choose good things at the cost of the Gospel?
I am keenly aware that one day my child may tell me he doesn’t want to go to church. Or maybe he doesn’t feel like it. Or maybe he doesn’t have time because school/homework or extracurricular activities may seem more pressing. I pray that I would be willing to place God above my child’s comfort or my own convenience. I pray for those conversations of why we strive to put the Lord first in our lives above all else. God is so clear in His Word of the sacrifices that we will face but that because Christ loved us and died for us, His love should always compel us in our lives to look to Him first.
I completely understand that growing up in church is not the only way God pursues and saves His people. But I also know the more we are exposed to the love of Christ, the more of an opportunity my child has to fall in love with Jesus. And that is BY FAR my greatest desire for my child. So I pray that our family would always choose the Gospel over the world. Every time.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.