Today I watched my two youngest playing together in the backyard. Sawyer is six and Emerald is 22 months, and believe me, they don’t always enjoy each other’s company. But, for the most part, she adores him, and he dotes on her, down to giving her anything in his hand that she wants. Adelade was at dance class, so it was a rare opportunity for Sawyer to be the big brother, thinking he was totally in charge of things, even though I was keeping a close watch from the kitchen window. I was curious to see if he would “forget” my charge to keep an eye on her.
I watched as he led her around by the hand, changing directions as her whims demanded. He took her from toy to toy, held the swing steady so she could climb on, and then gently rocked her back and forth. I saw him carefully explain with way too much detail how she should go about climbing onto the spring horse, and then I watched her try to follow his instructions while he hoisted her into place and held onto her leg to keep her centered. She stayed atop the horse for exactly 3.2 seconds, which is about the length of time she stays anyplace, but he was completely unfazed and carefully helped her down. In all of the instructing (Okay, put your feet here, Emerald. No, right here, on the pedals. Like this. Not exactly. Let me help you.) and all of the cheering (Good job, Emerald! You got on the swing by yourself! Now hold on and I’ll push you, but don’t be afraid, it’s going to be fun!) and all of the mind-changing (The car? Okay, let’s ride the little car. No? Oh, you want to get back on the swing? Ok, Emerald, let’s go back over there.), I detected not one ounce of impatience in Sawyer.
I think if Emerald had indicated that she wanted to paint his hair green and take a bath in ketchup he would’ve run in looking for paint and condiments. He was 100% focused on her, and he didn’t mind her baby-ness or the way she didn’t really understand how to do things that he knew how to do. I could see his clear and sincere love for her. He was enjoying teaching her how to be a kid, and when she made even tiny amounts of progress during that process, he was genuinely pleased, and told her so.
While I watched all of this sweetness unfold, it dawned on me that what I was seeing was a beautiful picture of what discipleship should be. When someone is new to the Christian faith, we sometimes act as if she should automatically know how to live as a Christian. Often we leave new believers on their own, expecting them to figure out how to grow in their faith, how to know God more, and how to deal with the sin in their lives. We unintentionally abandon them, when they know no more about the Bible or about the narrow way than a baby knows about climbing onto a spring horse.
We should be more like Sawyer, patiently guiding them, step by step, not getting frustrated when they are learning to mature in their faith, but instead cheering them on in every small victory along the way. In Titus 2, Paul gives plenty of ideas of what good discipleship looks like: it is about teaching, loving, and living lives that don’t cause anyone to look down on the gospel. We all need mentoring. And as we grow in wisdom and in truth, we can help guide others, with the patience of a six year old boy who loves helping out his little sister.
I doubt I’ll soon forget the precious scene that I witnessed through my kitchen window today. Sawyer did well with his little charge. I pray that as I try to disciple my own children and other people God sends my way that I will do it with as much kindness, patience and joy as Sawyer had in the backyard. No pushing, no frustration, just gentleness and cheering.
Oh, and love. Lots of love.