There is a night that I think all God-loving parents dream about almost daily from the time their children are born. I'm not talking about the day of their salvation (prayer) which often happens between 4-7 if they are raised in a home that talks about God, participates in church, prays with them, and teaches them the childlike truths of the Christian faith.
I'm talking about what I think is an equally, if not more important night. It is a night that validates whether the first experience was even real. It usually comes somewhere in early adolescence if it comes at all.
I remember for me it happened when I was about 13 yrs. old. Up to that point I gave my parents every reason to believe I was a pagan reprobate, heathen and hell-bound. My mom has told me she wondered about my faith based on my attitude and actions throughout my elementary and early middle school years. I don't blame her. I broke every rule...lying, stealing, cheating, pornography, language, smoking, chewing, vandalism, anger, meanness, obnoxious behavior, back-talker...disobedience was my native way of life it would have seemed. I remember my dad quoting an obscure verse in the O.T. that said, "Rebellion was as the sin of witchcraft". So on top of it all, I suppose I was into witchcraft as well.
But on one Wed. evening, something happened. I remember it vividly.
I was supposed to pick apples after school before prayer meeting that night, but when my mom dropped me off, I left the orchard and went salmon fishing with some older deviants who led me astray. I wasn't the hardest kid to lead astray. I knew when my mom was picking me back up for Prayer Meeting, so I made sure to get back to the orchard and look like I was picking apples when she arrived.
As I climbed into the passenger seat of the van she was driving, I remember her peppering me with questions about apple-picking. "So how was the apple-picking today?" "Who else was picking with you?" "Did you pick more than usual?" "How many bins did you pick?" "Were they 12 bushel bins or 20?" -- I thought to myself with every lie, "Come on already! You never ask me questions...leave me alone!" With each lie leading to another, I could feel my stomach churning. We got home and headed off to prayer meeting at church. I remember feeling sick to my stomach the whole evening there. I'd felt some conviction over the years, but this was like nothing I'd experienced up to this point. I knew I had to tell my parents when we got home.
And that is what I did. I told them I wanted to talk to them in my bedroom and before I sat down on the edge of the bed I was crying with head in hands. Through tears and sobs I told them that I, in fact, was not picking drops for apple cider but instead was salmon fishing with the "Field's boys" in a nearby river. I remember expecting them to ride me like a rodeo bull and dish out corporal punishment, maybe even capital punishment, but that didn't happen. I remember seeing a soothing peace fill my mom's face and smile of sympathetic pain cover my father's countenance. I didn't know it at the time, but later on in life they told me that this was the day they knew that God lived inside my heart. This moment for them was among their favorite memories of my childhood...the day they saw the convicting work of the Spirit of God actively causing repentance.
I share this story, because this happened a couple of weeks ago with my daughter, Kami.
It was a Wed. night and she had gotten home from youth group, done her homework, and performed her pre-bedtime rituals. I went upstairs and climbed into bed with all the girls like I do every night. While I was laying there with Kami I asked her about youth group and she said that it was good. I asked her why and she gave me a few vague answers. After snuggling for a bit, I gave her a kiss goodnight and went downstairs. Heidi and I were talking on the couch about the day when Kami came down the stairs and sat on a chair in the living room. Her face looked as if she'd seen a ghost and she was starting to tear up as she tried to utter a word. As she tried to talk, she began to weep and we moved closer to her and asked her what was the matter. It took a couple minutes but she finally began to string together some words.
"Remember how I told you that at youth group we had an opportunity to come forward and write out something we struggle with on the chalkboard and I said I wrote 'words' down?"
(weeping, sobbing, tears)
(head buried in her hands...like when I was younger)
"Well, I didn't tell you everything."
"What do you mean? What's wrong?"
"Um...I have been struggling with words, but it's more than that. I've been swearing under my breath."
(an absolute dam broke and the tears rained down like a waterfall)
"What kind of words? The A-word, the D-word, the S-word?"
"Even the F-word?"
We sat there and let her just sob and share her burden. She went on to say that she hasn't said them out loud around her friends, but she has whispered them under breath and sometimes says them at home when she is alone upstairs and she's mad at us. She went on to share about what God was convicting her of in her devotional and how that had really softened her heart. She also shared that at the end of the night they sang a song called "All things new" and she cried and felt God speaking to her about how he was making her new. We sat there overjoyed while she confessed her sins to us like we were Catholic priests. Joy flooded my heart as I saw God working in her little heart.
The conversation went on for probably another 15 minutes as Heidi spoke into her heart and I told her how proud I was of her. I shared that it was moments like this that made us trust her more and have more confidence in her heart and that she never had to be afraid to talk to us about what she was feeling or what she did wrong...that we would always love her and be with her through anything.
We talked about the environments she's around and how they influence her thoughts and words and she agreed. It was important for us to let her know that we couldn't protect her from every aspect of the world...that she would have to learn how to work through temptation and friendships and peer pressure and sin...but that we would do everything we could to support her so she could be honest with us. I especially wanted to take a little time to let her know that just because she was a PK (Preacher's Kid) I knew that she would make mistakes and I didn't want her to feel like her struggles and difficulties reflected negatively on me, making her close up and hide. There is nothing so damaging to a PK as a secret life borne out of people-pleasing and playing the part without getting real about the heart. I told her that there was nothing she could do that would cause us not to love her...nothing.
So, to make a long story semi-long, this was a good night. This is the kind of night you dream of having, hoping it happens to you as it happened to you back when you were young and felt the Holy Ghost move you to do what you wouldn't do otherwise. This is the power of God.
Thank you, God.