I grew up with the light of my dad’s incredible talent shining on me. It wasn’t a shadow, not at all, but more like a beacon that drew me into the church, and helped me to grow in my abilities, in my confidence, and with a firm understanding of how even a little child matters in God’s kingdom.
My dad was a child prodigy. At a young age, he developed his musical talents, and at sixteen he could play, write, or sing anything he wanted to. By the time his little red headed daughter grew big enough to sing her first solo in church (“Germs, My Invisible Dog”), our loving church family seemed convinced that I had inherited a small slice of my dad’s abilities, and they watered me like a tender little plant.
I was no child prodigy. In fact, I was only mediocre in ability, a fairly average little singer (and I still am today). But, my dad kept inviting me into his worship. And, my church family kept encouraging. At our community “singings,” the old timers who had cut their teeth on shape note hymnals would call me up and let me sing the wild and winding alto lines with them. But, it wasn’t just me. These dear people seemed to love seeing children sing praise to God, and they repeatedly sent the important message straight to our little hearts: You matter. Your worship is worthy.
So, today, when ten year old Adelade, our first baby, got on stage with us and sang her pretty little bird-like harmonies, standing there between her daddy and me, I couldn’t help but feel that we were collectively whispering into her heart. The smiling faces in the congregation, the encouraging nods and the sweet comments later all felt like little ways that our church opened its arms to this nervous little preteen, watering her well and watching her grow.
The night before, we sang in the kitchen. She cried. She worried that she couldn’t do it. She wondered how people would feel about her performance. But, we kept going. She kept trying. And by this morning, even though the microphone was slipping through nervous, sweaty palms, she sang.
She, too, is growing up with the light of a talented daddy shining on her. I pray that she will grow up knowing, (especially in those trembling, I’m-not-sure-if-even-Christ-can-do-this-through-me moments) the sweet love of the Bride of Christ, which, in my experience, is always taking opportunities to breathe life and confidence and also humility and grace into its little ones.
May the church always be a place where children are made to understand that their faith is as real as any grown up’s. Where they are shown that stepping on a stage or knocking on a door or going halfway around the world or any other knee-trembling, sweaty palms experience is all worth it when you are seeking to bring glory to King Jesus. May we provide opportunities for our kids to grow, to stretch, to challenge themselves, to develop their abilities, to learn about the many ways that God can work through them, knowing all the while that we are helping to anchor them to Christ’s church, and to their Savior.
I have no doubt that the experience of singing with my dad (despite my never-ending stage fright), and the years’ worth of encouragement from the people who saw Christ’s working in me, are the reasons that I have never felt disdain for the church. Isn’t that what we want, what we need for every single child who steps inside our weird, maze-like hallways? What if we made it our goal to seek out every little soul who comes through our doors just to whisper the truth into their hearts? You matter. And your worship is worthy.
It certainly made all the difference for me. And, I pray it makes a difference for my children, too, in whichever of the millions of ways that they choose to serve, to love, to give, to go. Their worship is worthy.