One of the first things I noticed after becoming a mommy was I couldn't wait "until". I couldn't wait until Maddox was crawling, walking, talking. I couldn't wait until I could buy him playdough and finger paint. I couldn't wait until he was older and I could "do" things with him. But as he got older, I just kept thinking about what I could do later. I would see cute little projects and think, "Oh, he's not quite old enough for that." I would see books and I would think, "Oh, he just won't understand that." This idea of "he's not ready" spilled into the way I began to raise him spiritually as well. I just didn't think he would be able to understand, or I wasn't comfortable bringing it up, or it was never the right time. Strangely, he was the one who began to push me to make the spiritual aspect of our lives the center.It really started when he was diagnosed with autism. On the way to his first therapy session I felt the need to pray over my precious little boy. I still remember driving down the road pouring my heart out to God while he sat in his little car seat in his own little world. It felt great to share that with him. To let him know that God was in control of this situation even if I believed at the time he didn't have a clue what was going on. I still made a point to include him, and I soon learned he was absorbing every single word.
Soon after Maddox started therapy we had decided to sell our house, move to Houston, and start a whole new chapter. I began to pray with Maddox about these decisions. Honestly, I never imagined he even knew what was going on, but one day we were driving down the road and he saw an ambulance with it's lights on going down the road. He said, "Mommy, we need to pray for those people who are hurt." After I caught my breath I said a quick, easy prayer, "God, be with those people who are hurt and make them better. Amen." Nothing crazy. Nothing long. Just something I thought he could understand. Next, Rob decided to teach Maddox the Lord's Prayer. Since he grew up in the Catholic church he sang (or maybe more like chanted) the prayer to Maddox every night. Soon Maddox started to sing along and now every night my 3 1/2 year old and 2 year old sing their "Our Father" to God. To hear such amazing words flow from their lips is more powerful than I ever imagined. It has led to great discussions with the kids. Maddox will ask, "What does lead us not into temptation mean?" I never would have thought to teach them these words. I would have thought these words were too "big" for my little babies.
The past few months they've begun to ask to pray for specific people and things. A simple, ""Dear God, thank you for Daddy because we love him so much," and even "Dear God, thank you for candy because it is so good." These may seem like simple things to me, but they are learning to bring things to God. They are learning to share with Him. They are building a relationship with God the way it is meant to be, the same as we build a relationship with other people.The moment I realized something big had happened was when their friend had a terrible accident. he fell through a two story window. He had to have surgery to relieve the bleeding in his brain and Maddox, Eden and I prayed that God would make Aidan better. When I got word that Aidan was ok we immediately thanked God for his healing. Maddox (my dear, sweet 3 1/3 year old) looked up at me next and said, "Mommy, now we need to pray for the lady the magician sawed in half." What started as a simple song at bedtime has turned into an active prayer life in the hearts of my children. Children who are not even able to read and write, but who understand to bring their worries and thanks to God. The magician's assistant may not have really been hurt during the "trick", but my son didn't know that. He realized that God heals the hurting and he wanted to pray for someone he felt was hurting.
Training up a child in the way he should go doesn't start when we feel they are old enough to "understand" it is a daily process. Perhaps this is why God instructs us as parents to make talking about God a habit, so we do not get stuck in this "later" rut. Remember the teachings of Deuteronomy 11:16-20
16 “But be careful. Don’t let your heart be deceived so that you turn away from the Lord and serve and worship other gods. 17 If you do, the Lord’s anger will burn against you. He will shut up the sky and hold back the rain, and the ground will fail to produce its harvests. Then you will quickly die in that good land the Lord is giving you.
18 “So commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these words of mine. Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders. 19 Teach them to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up. 20 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
We are promised that if we bring up our children in God's ways they will not depart from it. So why do these teachings seem to take a back shelf until "later"? We should want to get as early a start as possible to ensure these teachings are bound on the hearts of our children!