A few nights ago I led our church in communion, where we remember the sacrifice Jesus made for us. I was excited to have an opportunity to focus on the blood of Christ. I walked through the details of Jesus' suffering. His tormentors placed on his head a crown of thorns that sent blood down his face. They lashed him over and over with a lead-tipped whip, ripping the flesh from his back -- a punishment that often killed. But he survived only to carry a heavy cross out of the city to a hillside, with the rough wood scraping against his raw, bloody back. When he arrived, they drove nails into his hands and feet to hold him onto that cross.
But I made some silly mistakes in my talk. I'm easily frustrated in "public speaking" situations, because I can get a script down perfectly, but then make some sort of silly mistake that I had never anticipated, drawing the attention away from what I came to say (or at least, it feels like it). In this particular instance, I simply forgot to tell the group to sit down. They stood for probably 4 minutes of my communion talk before I saw the cues to give the room permission to sit. Maybe I could rationalize that I was giving them a small taste of suffering, so they could relate to what Jesus went through?
Regardless, I walked away flustered. I had a bunch of other administrative tasks on my mind, as well as a leader-training event directly after the service. It's hard to focus when your pride is hurt. I like to joke that I won't ever have to write an autobiography because wikipedia's page on the seven deadly sins is already pretty thorough, but the reality is that pride is the big one for me. And my pride was pretty wounded.
But sometimes we need to hear it from the right person to remember what matters most.
At bedtime that evening, as I do almost every evening, I read to my son from the Bible as we snuggled together. We wrapped up our Bible time and then prayed together as a family. Then he said something that totally amazed my wife and me.
"The mean people hurt Jesus. They put the points on his head that hurt him. And they put him on the tree, on a cross. Jesus died. But God's not dead he's surely alive. And we go to heaven if Jesus is in our hearts."
Yes. My son is two and a half years old. And he said all of that. The "God's not dead" line is from a song and we've talked many times about how Jesus died and didn't stay dead (more so lately as we are approaching Easter). And we've talked at length before about believing in Jesus or having "Jesus in our hearts" in order to be with God forever.
But that evening, when I was talking about Jesus on stage making blunders that would leave me nursing my pride, my son heard me talking about Jesus and the crown they place on his head. Then he connected all of these scattered teachings that we've shared with him over his life and fit them into a narrative that brought tears to our eyes.
My son didn't see me "mess up" as I stood up there. He heard what I was passionate about. When people say that toddlers will hear and repeat everything, they are telling the truth. The words we speak and the things we do are a reflection of what is in our hearts -- and if we speak hurtful things or respond without love, our children see it and act in kind. And while I was stuck on minor details, my son was picking up on the story of our Savior. This is the same story that rocked me to the core nearly 10 years ago and changed the course of my life for eternity.
I know he doesn't grasp it yet. But he heard it. And we will talk about it. My whole life I've been a doubter and a skeptic, and I bet that won't change any time soon (see, there's more doubt). So we'll wrestle with this "God thing" together and we'll chat about who Jesus was, what he said, and why it is worth considering.
Our children don't hear all the little mistakes that we beat ourselves up over. But they do pick up on what matters most to us. And I'm so glad that in all of that, my son heard about Jesus.