Welcome back! If you’re just joining us in the “Shaping Little Hearts” series, you might want to catch up on posts 1, 2, and 3 before reading today’s installment. Today I wanted to share with you how we use regular, everyday situations as opportunities to share the gospel with our children.
If you’re reading this and thinking they are those kind of parents who have a Bible verse for every situation or always have the exact right response to their children’s questions about God, Jesus, and the world, you’ve barked up the wrong tree.
We have to be very intentional with our time with our kids and make it a point in our heart and a matter of prayer to even be able to recognize opportunities for us to share little glimpses into the gospel.
Let’s face it, the demands of small children can be very distracting. They often ask questions that we’re not prepared to answer. Or questions that we haven’t yet discovered an answer for ourselves.
I’d encourage you not to let either of the above situations deter you from attempting to, “…Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have…” 1 Peter 3:15 (NIV)
Today, I’ll share two examples from our recent experiences just to show you that conversations about God don’t have to be contrived or even planned out. There are so many instances that lend themselves to these type of conversations, we just have to be paying attention.
The following is an actual conversation I had with Finn (4) at the dinner table one day. It was around Easter, so the cross was fresh on his mind. Ryan was running late from work, so it was just me and the kids eating dinner until he arrived.
Let me preface this conversation by saying Finn is the type of child who wants brutal honesty. If you try to sugarcoat things, he’ll continue to ask questions until he gets an answer that makes sense to him or until he’s tired of thinking about the topic. The approach below may not work for you and your child. I’m just sharing a personal experience.
Finn: Why were those men hanging next to Jesus on the cross?
Me: They were thieves, remember? (I knew they’d just read this story in his Sunday school and we’d been reading about it at home.)
Finn: What’s a thief?
Me: It’s someone who steals something that’s not theirs, which is wrong. Back in Jesus’ time, they used to hang thieves on a cross as punishment. Jesus didn’t do anything wrong, though. He had to die on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins.
Finn: (in between bites of mashed potatoes) How come the one thief went to heaven with Jesus’ and the other one didn’t?
Me: (Let me add here that I just blurted all this out without really thinking it over, but the Lord gave me the words Finn could understand. You’ll see what I mean in a sec) Remember, the thief asked Jesus to remember him when He went to heaven? He meant that he believed Jesus was the Son of God, so Jesus said that the thief would be with him in paradise or heaven when he died because he believed. The one thief believed in Jesus so he joined Him in heaven when he died. The other thief chose to reject Jesus and God, so he had to spend an eternity separated from them in hell.
Finn: (ponders all this for 2 seconds) What’s hell?
Me: Well, hell is an awful place. It’s hot as fire and there are people crying and screaming and gnashing their teeth. That’s kinda like hissing.
Finn: (still eating and still pondering) Why are they hissing?
Me: Because they’re miserable. Not only are they in a terrible place, but they’re not with God and Jesus.
Finn: gives a little satisfied nod, which means he’s tired of the topic, and finishes his meal. He’s excused from the table and goes off to play while the rest of us finish our meal.
After he left the table, I thought to myself, Well, that’s not a conversation I expected to have at the dinner table. Thank you Lord for a child that can handle blunt conversations.
The only reason I share this conversation is that I wasn’t expecting it, yet the Lord gave me the words to say that made sense to my four year old. I’m convinced that happened only because I’m always praying to have the answers to Finn’s abundance of daily questions about life.
We don’t ever want to shy away from hard or uncomfortable questions from either of our kids. We want them to come to us any time they have questions and not fear that we will reject them or make them feel stupid. Apparently those hard questions have begun at four years old. Yikes!
Now, before any of you freak out, not all gospel conversations have to be so heavy. I’ll share another example of how being intentional in conversation can allow for an opportunity to share God with your kids.
My kids love the movie Trolls. And, if I’m being honest, so do I. Singing, dancing, hugging—sign us up!
Anyway, I picked up a couple of those blind bags that have a little troll doll in them at Target one day. Both kids were with me, so I really hoped I grabbed some trolls they’d like. I sort of felt around the bag to make sure I could feel a troll face and some hair, but there’s no way to know what you’re getting in those bags. We checked out and I loaded the kids into the car before I opened the bags.
I let Finn pick which bag to open first and handed Lydia the other. He opened his and it was Branch (his favorite). I opened Lydia’s for her and thought, please be Poppy, please be Poppy. It was…Poppy!
Both kids were super happy and excited. If I’m being honest, my first thought was “Thank you, God. It’ll be such a pleasant ride home now.”
I walked around the car and climbed back in my seat and I was struck by how sweet it was of God to allow me to find the exact ones the kids wanted. It’d been a really long, rough week at our house with the usual drama created by a toddler, a preschooler, and an exhausted mama.
So I just simply said, “Wasn’t that so sweet of God to help Mama pick up the exact trolls you wanted. He knew you wanted Branch, Finn. And He knew Lydia wanted Poppy. Wasn’t that great?!”
Finn gave me an enthusiastic, “Yeah!” and then went on admiring his new toy. Gotta love him for humoring Mama for just a second there.
God has helped me see that sharing Him with my kids doesn’t have to be difficult, awkward, or orchestrated in any way by me. He will provide plenty of organic opportunities for us as parents. We just have to be ready and willing to see them and take advantage of them.
My hope with this post today and the “Shaping Little Hearts” series in general is to help you discover, like God has shown me, that we don’t have to worry about how we present things to our children. We don’t have to stress about what questions they’ll ask or how to bring up the gospel to them while they’re little.
We just have to trust Him. Wake up every morning, grab Jesus by the hand, and say, “Prepare me for whatever comes today.” I truly believe God will honor that when we ask. He will equip us to do the work He has called us to in raising little ones. He is always faithful.
The “Shaping Little Hearts” series first appeared on the Little Paper Crown blog.