About a year ago, we were in our pretty new house and one afternoon I was changing a boy's dirty diaper (ah the glamour of motherhood) when from the next room I heard my beautiful five-year-old call out from the comfort of her tiny pink armchair, "I just asked God to come into my heart!"
I had a panicked moment of realizing I needed to finish the task at hand - hello, poopy bottom - while my daughter was apparently having a spiritual epiphany next door.
"Baby, wait right there! I'll be there in a minute and we can talk about it!"
I wasn't prepared for this moment. I mean, really, was not prepared for my daughter to just pronounce this simple little act as something to be done as swiftly and matter of course as brushing one's teeth. I knew, at five years of age, she probably did not know quite what she was doing, but at the same time, why couldn't it be that simple? Why couldn't she decide in the simplicity of her little purple bedroom to follow Jesus for the rest of forever? And if she made that decision, why shouldn't she follow through?
But wasn't it supposed to be more complicated than this? Weren't we supposed to have a heart to heart? Weren't we supposed to lead her in some prayer or something?
So, I was torn - between the organic nature of a child making her own decisions, and recognizing the weight of this sort of decision and the gravity with which this decision should be handled.
Of course, we talked - I told her if she was really ready to make this step we would talk with our pastor so he could help her understand what this meant.
Now, it's important to understand that at this time in our lives we were attending our church's Saturday evening service - so, while our church's typical Sunday morning crowd averaged about 400 attendees per service, we were used to sitting in the second row of a congregation of about two dozen every Saturday night. And after nearly every service our little precocious one was always so eager to go tell Bro. Todd whatever her news for the week was - whether it meant showing him her new Bible or her new shoes. She loved talking to him.
But when I suggested talking to him about this most important decision, one she should be thrilled about, she suddenly resisted. Deciding, nevermind, she didn't really want to be a Christian. I was baffled, but didn't push.
Later, in talking to our pastor's wife, she told me this was usually a good indication if a child was "ready" - because if she truly wanted to become a follower of Jesus, nothing would stop her - not even talking to Bro. Todd.
Thus, we continued to wait. I wasn't eager to push her too early, anyhow.
Fast forward a year, and many spiritual conversations, later, to Good Friday.
We began the day discussing what the significance was. She had read on her calendar that it was the day before "Passover Begins" - so we talked about Passover. She has always been a big fan of the story of the Israelites putting blood on their doorways so the Angel of Death would not kill the firstborn sons in those homes. Yet, when I asked her if she remembered what Passover meant, she began with, "It's when Jesus took the bread and said, 'This is my body, if you do this you will be part of me.' and he took the wine and said, 'This is my blood . . .'"
Here is where I want to thank the amazing staff of our children's department at church - because I never taught her this part of the story. These are all words she clearly must have learned in Sunday School.
Of course, we discussed that further and went about our day. Later, we discussed that at the service that evening we would have The Lord's Supper but they would not have any because it's only for those who have made the decision to follow Christ. I was really trying to prepare them for the moment of the passing of the plate when crackers and juice would pass them by and Mommy and Daddy wouldn't let them have some. Because no one needs to deal with an Emmett who isn't getting a snack when they're trying to focus on the body and blood of Christ.
And the subject was dropped.
Until another couple of hours passed and Micaiah, always loving to just drop the spiritual bomb as if it's nothing, came marching down the stairs with the broadest grin I'd seen on her face in a long time, and declared, "I just went upstairs and asked God to come into my heart - and now I'm a Christian! And now we can talk to Bro. Todd and I can get baptized!"
Well, now I was torn. Because here I was, yet again, caught unaware, and not sure where to go from here. On the one hand, that was really exciting news. On the other hand - was she, too, just looking for that bread and wine? And why couldn't she ever do this when her father was home?! So I sent her back upstairs where she and I could talk.
I asked her multiple questions, such as what it meant to ask God into her heart, why she wanted to do so, etc. And the whole time, she had the most brilliant smile on her face. I can describe it as none other than a Holy Spirit change.
And sure enough, as she finished out the afternoon, her attitude (which we'd been fighting with all week) was completely changed. She was helpful and kind and there was always that smile (even days later, when a friend of ours commented to her about how polite she had been, her response was, "It's because I'm a Christian").
At church that evening, she was eager to tell everyone, "I'm a Christian now!" and even continued to ask, "When will I get to tell Bro. Todd?!" (which we did immediately following the service). And after much deliberation, she even was allowed to have her first taste of the Lord's Supper (and when I say much deliberation, I mean, she didn't even get to have her own bread, because I didn't decide until after the plate had passed and I finally tore mine in two to share with her), because I realized I didn't need to wait for her to understand what it meant - she had already told me that morning.
And that everlasting smile - the joy of a changed heart - would not leave her beaming face.
Which may have only been slightly eclipsed by the cries of her brother as we left church that evening, "But I didin't get anything to eat!"