This started out as a guest post for my friend Teri Lynne Underwood over at Prayers for Girls. Like so many times when I am preparing for my podcast, the message I think God is giving me for “someone else out there,” He is really giving me.
I actually stopped at one point and caught my breath as tears and questions welled up. First, “Who am I, Lord, that you would reveal wisdom to me?” and then “Oh my, Lord, I’ve been doing that haven’t I?”
Although this is written for an audience specifically committed to praying for the girls in their lives, I think the truths in it are for all parents, grandparents, and lovers of children everywhere.
I love Jesus.
I want my girls to love Jesus as much as I do. So how can I convince them?
At this point the Holy Spirit is pressing the alarm. I can hear the loud buzzing and see the flashing strobe lights. But why? Where am I going wrong?
Over Easter break my family and I vacationed at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. At 3 a.m. one morning a faulty pool heater motor seized up producing smoke and setting off the fire alarm in our high-rise condo. The warning system in the building included a loud alarm, strobe lights, and a voice repeating, “This is a fire alarm. Please exit the building. This is a fire alarm. Please exit the building.” Of course, my husband and I jumped up, threw on some clothes and shoes, and rushed to our girls’ room to find our oldest up and dressed with a backpack of her valuables thrown over her shoulder leaning over our youngest…who was still sound asleep! When the adventure was over, and we were safe after all, we laughed about how Meredith can sleep through anything.
Like waking up to an alarm at 3 a.m. I am slow to comprehend the Holy Spirit’s warning.
I read it yesterday. I’ve read it many times before. I may even have a coffee cup displaying the words of 1 John 4:19 — “We love because he [God] first loved us.”
But why the alarm?
My spirit begins to awaken.
“You believe your girls will love because you loved God first.”
And just like that, the 3 a.m. fog lifts and I see my error does not lie in my love for Jesus. My error does not lie in my desire for my girls to love Jesus as much as I do. When I think it is my duty to convince my girls to love Jesus, my error lies in my idolatry. Idolatry is replacing God with an image that is not God, and I find myself seated in God’s position.
My children will love because he first loved them, not because I first loved him.
So what about everything I’ve done in my quest to convince my girls to love Jesus? Was I wrong to read Scripture to my babies in a rocking chair? Should I have skipped the devotion books with craft ideas for my toddler? Has the investment in Christian education been a waste? Were my prayers for them dismissed because my intent was flawed? No!
But I still feel guilty.
I still feel like I should be doing more.
Because I have been doing all of this to convince and I am not convinced they are convinced.
In order to properly heed the alarm, I must only jump a few verses up in the same letter from John. “No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.” (1 John 4:12)
Ah. Now I see. It is not my responsibility to convince my girls of God’s love, it is my responsibility to reflect God’s love.
And just like that, we have a solution. We must sincerely receive God’s love ourselves so we can reflect it fully to our children. Our children have never seen God, but they can see his love “brought to full expression in us.”
So, I will continue to have God-conversations in the car on the way to school. I will continue to bring them to church and send them to camp. I will continue to try new things and suggest new resources. But I will also soak in Scripture, commit myself to prayer, share with others, invest in friendships, and worship with abandon.
I don’t want to sleep through the Holy Spirit’s alarm, so I will trust God with my girls – acknowledging that He loved them first. I will lay down my desire to convince, and choose to reflect instead.
Prayer: Dear Father, in this moment I recognize the most powerful prayer for my girls might just lie in this prayer for myself. Keep me from placing myself in your position — keep me from this act of idolatry. Help me receive your love sincerely so I can reflect it fully. Thank you for loving me first.
I can’t wait to get my hands on this new book by Teri Lynne Underwood. If you have girls in your life who are special to you, I encourage you to pre-order this book today! I have been following Teri Lynne’s blog where my guest post is published. Her prayer calendars are an especially valuable resource and you can start using those while you wait for your book to arrive!