This morning, while getting ready for church, I had just turned on a song called "You Make Beautiful Things" (see video above) when Brock climbed up in my lap. I noticed him watching the video and thinking about what he was hearing. When this line in the song was sung, it sparked the following conversation:
Me (thinking from the perspective of the song's context and someone wanting to change): "Well, yeah, they can. Jesus gives us the power to change."
Brock: "But I don't want my life to change."
Blaine: "You wouldn't want your life to be better? Even when we have good lives, knowing Jesus makes life greater, and Jesus makes us happier.
Brock: "Well, I can just make myself happy."
And I'll confess, my mothering heart always initially panics a little when he makes these statements. As someone who has experienced the grace and forgiveness of Christ and who enjoys the peace and rest and joy that come with knowing God, I can't help but want the same thing for my children. I want them to love Jesus, to want to follow him and show his love and grace to the world around them. So I admit that it definitely plants a small fear in my heart to hear my little 4 year old essentially say, "I don't need Jesus. I want to do it on my own." I have done it on my own, and I have failed, so naturally I don't want my children to experience the pain and darkness and restless dissatisfaction that are the consequences of rebellion and separation from God.
But as I thought about these things the rest of the morning, I started to see them in a different light.
I think I always feel like we've somehow failed Brock in the spiritual department when he says he doesn't need God. Like we messed something up if he doesn't just accept what we teach him about Jesus and automatically feel a desire to surrender his will to Christ. But then it occurred to me that I don't want my children to adopt a mindless faith just because that's what we've taught them. I want them to believe it because they have found it to be true. I want them to experience the truth of Christianity for themselves and not just inherit a worldview from their mom and dad.
Brock is a thinker, an analyst. So maybe he will need to question it and wrestle with it and see how it holds up under examination. And honestly, I'm okay with that. I'm comfortable with him having questions because Blaine and I have had them too, and we also have searched for and found answers. Maybe faith won't come easily to Brock. But how much more precious and real and meaningful and life-transforming that faith may be if he has to really struggle and search for it.
The other point that I realized was echoed in a statement Blaine quietly made after the conversation with Brock ended this morning. After our 4 year old proclaimed that he didn't want his life to change and that he would just make his own self happy, Blaine said, "If that isn't a picture of humanity right there."
And that's the truth. Whether you are a believer or an unbeliever, there is always (for Americans at least) the temptation, the tendency to see this world and our lives as belonging only to us. To live under the assumption that we control our destinies, that our happiness is up to us, that we submit to no one. If things are going well in our lives, if everything is good, we have no need of some supernatural Creator outside of ourselves.
I recently finished the first five seasons of Parenthood on Netflix (call me Mrs. Productive). If you've seen the show, you may have noticed how the Braverman family feels about spirituality. Baseball is more of a religion to them than anything having to do with God or church. Throughout the seasons they indicate in different ways that they aren't really believers in anything supernatural. Adam Braverman, at one point early in the show, pretty much scoffs at the idea of faith or a belief in God. They have no need of it. Until his wife is diagnosed with breast cancer and in one episode almost dies because her body goes into septic shock. After watching her videotaped goodbyes to the family, Adam breaks down in prayer next to her hospital bed and begs for her life. (Fast forward to 3:13 for this specific scene).
So it shouldn't surprise me that this is my son's response. It was and sometimes still is my own response. I don't want my life to change when things are good. I don't need Jesus because I can do things on my own. I'm self-sufficient. I'm independent. I've got this under control.
Except that I'm not and I don't. Even if you and I live under this illusion 95% of the time, there are still those moments when we are faced with our own mortality, our own limitations, our own inadequacies, our failures, our weaknesses, our vices, our frailty. Those moments when the rug is pulled out from under us and we have no choice but to acknowledge our littleness.
That littleness is always there. We just don't always want to see it. But I think if we could see it and really understand it, our hearts would be much more ready and willing to say, "We really do need you, Jesus. Please change us."