Memorial Day has always been special to me, having a Grandfather and Uncle who served in WWII. Four years ago, Memorial Day took on a rather sad meaning for us when Daniel's father passed away from esophageal cancer in the wee hours of Memorial Day 2005. Memorial Day 2010, however, will have a most special meaning in my heart because that is the day my firstborn gave her life to Christ.
Hard to know where to start telling this story. Hannah's birth brought on some health issues for me and a radical shift in perspective to the point that I quit a job I was basically addicted to. Soon after, Daniel's father fought a six month battle with cancer, and passed away. All those events converged on our family and my marriage and my spiritual life in a way I really can't put into words. We were never the same. Praise God, we were never the same. I began to walk with Christ in a more intimate, surrendered manner than before and sometime along that year I began to pray that Hannah would come to know God at an early age and never depart from a serious pursuit of Him all her life. Like always, I prayed in the smallness of my faith and He answered in the overwhelming greatness of who He is. I had hoped "early in life" might mean before the age of 10. God had different plans.
Hannah has always enjoyed stories from the Bible. We started praying with her when she was 2. Her Daddy showed her how to kneel by her bed, clasp her hands, and pray, and she enjoyed doing so. However, sometime between 3 and 4 she began to resist family prayer time. It would be her turn and she would say, "I don't want to pray." This broke my heart and I didn't know how to proceed other than telling her I looked forward to hearing her prayers again. Often we would give her something to repeat and she would participate half-heartedly. I sensed a hardness in her that is hard to describe. In the meantime, my friend Jo Ellen began inviting us to BSF which has fabulous children's programs. I was hesitant to start on yet another Bible study venture or take them to another church building but we tried it out. The children, even in the 2's and under program, are instructed to lay down on a towel and spend quiet time with God. This lasts for ten minutes each week at BSF. Well, the first week went okay but when we came back for the second week, Hannah said, "I don't want to go to BSF. I don't like to talk to God." Well, I calmly (despite wanting to cry and rant) said, "You know, I'd rather talk to God than anyone, Hannah, and I hope that you feel that way soon because He is my favorite."
As Hannah has stayed the course in BSF where she is taught accurate Bible stories chronologically from the book of John, she has fallen in love with Jesus. She has a suprising grasp of basic theologicacl concepts which we reinforce at home through daily Bible stories. So one day we were riding in the car and she said,
"Does the Holy Spirit live inside me?"
"Well," I answered, "He lives inside those of us who have asked Jesus to be our saviour."
"What is a saviour?"
"Someone who saves us from our bad choices and makes a way for us to be with God forever."
"I want that. I want Jesus for MY savior, to help me not make bad choices, and to go to Heaven with Him, and I want to be baptized."
Well, I about had to pull off the road. I was not prepared for this at the age of 4!
The following week at BSF, I spoke to Kim W, our awesome former children's pastor, and she encouraged me to continue talking to Hannah. We left the sanctuary to go downstairs and get the children. The home training lesson was handed to me, and I looked down at the title, "How to lead your child to Christ." I already had tears in my eyes. Her teacher then pulled me aside, "You need to read this," she said. "Hannah is asking all the right questions. You need to be ready." I began to realize that with all Hannah was at the age of 4, she wanted all of Jesus. Sure, she thinks "sin" is Spanish for "bad choices" and she still makes plenty of them but she is aware of her sin and desires a savior. Over the next week, she told me multiple times that she was ready. In the car on the way home from Alabama on Mother's Day, we asked her to bless the Wendy's we were about to inhale and she said, "Thank you for this chicken and Jesus I would like to ask you to be my savior." Boom.
Since this was not the full confession of sin, desire to repent, and life surrender prayer I believed she needed to pray we knew we needed to follow up. It is with joy that I write that when this time came, I had ultimate confidence in my husband to spiritually discern this situation and lead Hannah in the way she should go. I took Emily shopping and he took Hannah on a date. A couple of hours passed, and when I came in the house they were quietly reading a book. I went to the kitchen to put some things away and I heard her come up behind me. "Mommy," she said, "I have Jesus in my heart." I turned around to look at her and what I saw physically affected me. She looked radiant and peaceful in a way I have not seen and she ran into my arms and threw all of herself around me in the best hug. If I drew this story out or included too much information for some of you, I'm sorry, but that moment blew me away. I don't want to forget any of it.
After she left, I called Daniel into the kitchen and covered his shirt in mascara. Then he retold me some of the conversation. What struck me is that even as ready as she was, when he brought it up again there was resistance there. Even at the age of 4 there was a war for Hannah's soul. "I don't want to talk about that now," she said. So he waited and she said, "Well Daddy, maybe I do want to talk about it. About Jesus being in my heart." Why do we resist a love that is so encompassing and so radical and so thorough?
Thanks for hanging in there and reading this story. Hope you have one, too. There is nothing like knowing He is yours and you are His. Forever.