Although I don't have children of my own (yet), I have the great honor of being an aunt to two nephews and a niece. I'm kind of an odd duck in my family and enjoy some things that these children would not be exposed to without me, and it is really cool to be able to share that with them. With their parents' permission, of course.
My niece and oldest nephew (siblings) have been to church a handful of times, though their mother is a devout atheist (if there could be such a thing) and my brother has dabbled here or there but never shown much interest in organized religion. But they want their children to be exposed and to come to their own conclusions and at one point, even talked about placing these two kids in a youth group to give them that chance. That never happened, but they do spend some time with Aunt Aidan.
Yesterday morning, my nephew woke up and walked into my room while I was reading my Bible. I read a few pages every morning; it is routine, and my day is not right without it. I have read out loud to all three of these children in my life at some point or another, but the two oldest in particular are getting to that age where they can ask questions. He didn't ask any yesterday, but he just sat on my lap and let me read. I consider that a special moment.
Several weeks ago, in early December, I was honored that they both finally answered "yes" to an invitation to church. Every time they spend the weekend at my house, I offer to take them, but they usually opt to stay with grandma. (And grandmas are awesome.) December, though, they wanted to go. I happily piled them into the back of my car, which my nephew loves because it is little and red like the racecar in his favorite movie. He feels special riding in my car and just smiles all the way. We stayed in the service for the music, then wandered around to see all the sights and to find all the different places in the church that kids were playing and singing and coloring and having fun. I could tell they were just soaking it all in, but I wasn't aware how much of an impact it had.
Until the next week and the weeks to come when my sister-in-law told me the children were repeatedly playing "church" at home. I suppose in the way you would play school or house or doctor. They aren't really old enough to understand Jesus, the message of His love, the Cross, or any of the meat of Christ yet, but they were old enough to get a memory of this place and play church. So this past weekend when they came to visit, the first words out of my niece's mouth were: I want to go to church. And of course, her little brother piped up and said he had to go to.
It's really cool to me to take these kids and introduce them, even a little, to the God I love so dearly. I can't wait (and perhaps I have waited too long?) until I can talk to them about God, about Christ, about His sacrifice. I can't wait until they pester me with questions about why we sing or why we come together or why we pass around a snack or what all those people are doing up there or what the water is for or what the Bible means or what the cross is or why it matters. I am anxiously awaiting that day.
Because while it's an honor for me to play this small role in their lives, it is an honor to God. It's all about Him.
And I would love to see His love in their hearts.
Sometimes, I think I'm missing a key window. They are smarter than they let on, more attentive than they pretend. Maybe they are already having these questions. Maybe their little minds are already turning, trying to figure it all out. Maybe they want to ask but aren't sure what they want to ask or how to ask it. I could probably do a better job of being proactive about it. I wonder how you talk to kids and put God on their level....