It was Christmas Eve. The next day was Sunday. All three kids were in the tubs. It was the end of the long, fun day that had begun very early seeing what Santa Claus had brought to our house. It was the end of the last full day that these three precious children and their mama would be with us for a while. There had been a lot of doll tending, pink car riding in freezing temps, skate board coasting down the drive and crafting with new kits. There was still paper and stocking stuffers and sticky little messes every where. I, frankly, was very much looking forward to finishing up Bible time and getting those three Christmas “crazies” on their pillows, so I could finish prepping the 60 little gift bags I was taking to worship the next morning for the children at West Huntsville. I was just so very tired.
And then the call came from one of those bathtubs. “Mammy!”….”Mammy!” Each “Mammy” was a little louder, until you would have thought there was a fire-breathing dragon emerging from the bubbles in that tub.
I’m sure I sounded a little impatient by the time I got to the bathroom door. “What is it?!” (I had already given him a bucket of toys and even honored his request for a water-color Crayola marker to write messages on the tub and mostly to make his water purple.)
So then it came..from a purple tub full of bubbles and that little brain that rarely turns off: “Mammy, God can do anything, right?”
“And God is good and he wants us to be good, right?”
“Yes, he does.” (By now, I thought I knew where this was going and I was thinking that I did not even have the sanity, much less the theology to answer this question.)
“Well then, Mammy…why doesn’t he just make it so that we always do the right thing and we always ARE good and we never get into trouble. Why doesn’t he just make it where we never follow the devil?”
It’s the question that apologetics debates are made of. People travel long distances to hear great minds discuss the problem of sin and suffering. There have been volumes of scholarly material written and reviewed and many people have spent years compiling and editing dissertations on various sub-topics of this query that I was hearing from this eight-year-old.
But, even on Christmas Eve before an early Sunday, I had to give it my best shot. I talked about the love of God and how He wants us to love him. I talked about robots and how I can get a robot to do a specific thing that I want him to do, but I cannot have a relationship with a robot in my heart. I talked about children obeying parents and how the goal is not to force you to do right. It is the joy of seeing you CHOOSE to do right. It is that choice that makes you a great person. I talked a bit about some people in the Bible who obeyed because their hearts were convicted and how God keeps on forgiving us when we are choosing to do our best to serve Him. I talked about the great price God paid at Calvary so that we could choose Him. Along the way, Ezra asked questions from that purple tub about the universality of sin in mankind and about why adults are ever lost in the first place.
The glaring truth for parents and grandparents is surely this: The best time for teaching deep truths is when deep questions are asked. I know I (or someone else) could have done a better job of explaining the answer to why a good God can allow people to be lost. I know that. But the point is this: No one else had that chance at that moment, and that was the moment when the soil of that little mind was most fertile for seed to be planted—seeds that with prayer and cultivation by parents and other important people in His world could make an eternal difference in His life.
Further, since all of this is true, doesn’t it make sense that the more time godly parents can spend with their children, the greater the opportunities for molding them for heaven will be? I mean, since the most teachable moments are not “plan-able,” parents with heaven in their long-term vision will want large quantities of time with their children, so that the “quality” time that molds eternity will have a large space in which to “happen.”
I hope that in 2023, moms reading will be intentional about the unintentional. I hope you will be devoting time to just being in the proximity of your kids more than you were in 2022, trusting God that, while seeking Him first, He will provide the times and places for conversations that might “happen” on any given day (or night.) In a world of forced secularism in their schools and, often, in their peer groups, it’s imperative that parents grab every opportunity, reason through every spiritual/moral dilemma and fill them up with the grace, mercy and truth from our God whose mercies are new every morning of their lives!
I know that, as a grandmother, my teachable moments with five little children that call me “Mammy” will be far less frequent than those times with their parents. That’s why I pray daily for four parents who will have so much to do with the eternal destinations of those precious little souls. Grandmothers, there is power in prayer. Don’t spurn a day without claiming that power!