The call to my desk came out of the blue. After a harried introduction to the urgent problem, my wife put my 3-year-old son, Lucas, on the line. He had scribbled on our new living room sofa with a ballpoint pen, and she called me to engage in the uncomfortable ritual of tele-discipline (in other words, discipline over the phone).
“Lucas,” I said firmly, “what did you do?”
His squeaky voice sounded distant, as if he were being forced to hold the phone: “I . . . um . . . wrote on the couch . . .”
“Lucas,” I said, “that’s bad.” What else could I say?
“Yeah,” he answered, ashamed.
Having reached the limits of tele-discipline, all I could do was repeat myself.
“That’s bad, Lucas. That’s very, very bad.”
After an uncomfortable pause, the little voice confidently responded: “Um . . . Jesus died for my sins.”
Simultaneously proud, amused, and annoyed, I could hardly keep from laughing. Like any good Christian father, I had taught Lucas that Jesus died for his sins. But until that moment, I had no idea whether or not any of it was sticking. And I certainly didn’t expect it to surface during a moment such as this.
As a parent, grandparent, or educator, do you ever wonder if your kids are getting it? As you read the Bible to them, tell them stories, or take them to church, do you ever ask yourself, “Is this stuff even sinking in?” And once it takes hold, how do you know whether it will stay?
The truth is, making it stick isn’t our responsibility. Though God has given us children to nourish with God’s Word and to nurture in the faith, whether or not our children bear fruit is up to God’s work in their hearts and lives. Regarding his spiritual children, the apostle Paul wrote, “So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:7).
It may be days, months, or years (or even decades!) before we see their spiritual branches blossom and burst with fruit. And it may not be a lush cornucopia. It could end up being just a few tiny grapes. But God can grow the seeds sown in the hearts of our children according to His plan and purpose. We need to plant or water and let God do the work.
The day Lucas scribbled on the couch, the Bible sank in. He was old enough to know that this action fell into the category of sin. He had been found guilty and was suffering the consequences. Then he remembered that Jesus died for his sins. Those circumstances, which I could never have created myself, made my “theoretical” instruction quickly become practical for him.
So when you don’t see the truth taking root and bearing fruit, be patient. God may not be finished with the work He’s doing.