Watching Adelade become a Christian was one of the greatest experiences of my life. Watching her grow as a Christian isn’t so easy. I see her growing pains as she confronts her own sin. She has moments of truly detesting the disobedience in her life. She’s an eight year old preacher’s daughter who has been in church her whole life, aware that “all have sinned” since she was in the two year old Sunday school class. When we look at her life, we may think that her sins are pretty insignificant. But, to her they are huge.
She’s reached an age where we battle over what she will wear. She wants to wear t-shirts and jeans. I want her to dress up sometimes. We’ve had many talks about the attitude that she gets when the little line on the toe of her socks is bothering her. The incredulousness when I suggest that she might need to take a nap. And, she can go along like that for awhile. And then one day it all caves in on her and she is overcome by her hatred for her disobedience, her sin.
It’s not popular to talk about children sinning. Or to suggest that they should be mindful that they are disobeying God when they disobey their parents. But, this is Truth. And, whether I say it or not, Adelade struggles. She has classic Romans 7:15 moments: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” She cries and wonders if she can be obedient. She truly does not understand why she sometimes chooses to disobey.
And, I watch her wrestle with this. It breaks my heart because I understand exactly how she feels. Wasn’t it just last week that I was in tears myself, wondering why I continue to do what I hate? Asking why it is that I don’t do the things I know I should? Why I choose to disobey God? Why I can’t seem to cut the sin out of my life that I detest so very much? The Christian life is full of so many bitter and sweet truths.
The bitter truth is that we will never be sinless in this life. The sweet truth is that God loves us anyway.
The bitter truth is that we are tempted every day. The sweet truth is that with God’s help we can overcome temptation.
In Adelade’s Christian walk I see the sweet: the worship, the striving to be more like Christ, the reaching out to those in need, the love, the soft-heartedness. And I see the bitter: the inner turmoil over sin, the desire to be different, the pain in acknowledging disobedience.
I think in this bittersweet journey of Christianity, and in the bitter and sweet moments of watching my child stretch and grow and endure the pain of being conformed to the image of our Savior, I have a significant role to play. I can encourage her to run to the Lord. To ask for help. I can acknowledge that none of us can manage this task of growing in faith and obedience without God’s help. I can sympathize. I can help her see where she is struggling. I can pray for her.
And sometimes, like tonight, I can remind her that I would die for her. That I would stand between her and a million bullets or speeding trains or tornados or runaway cars. And that nothing she does could ever change my love her or God’s love for her.
And then I go to my room and I remind myself of the same thing: God loves me. And that’s not going to change.
It’s funny just how much a 36 year old woman can have in common with an 8 year old girl. We both struggle. We both need a Savior. And we’re both feeling growing pains.
Thank God we know a Healer. I pray that I will point Adelade to Him more than I point her to her own failures or my own victories. The truth is that her disobedience isn’t an indication that she disrespects me. It’s a symptom of the bitter problem of humanity, sin. And, if I want to teach her that the growing pains are worth it, I won’t act superior. I will simply humbly point her to Christ, admitting that I need Him, too. It helps to remember that I am not just teaching her to obey me. I am teaching her to reach out for Christ-like-ness with all of her heart. The result is more obedience. God was so smart when He designed things that way.
So, in every waking hour we two will experience some of the bitter and some of the sweet of Christianity. May we grow toward God together, being more obedient along the way. Lord, help me lead where I want her to follow.