One reason I took a sabbatical is to focus on praying for my children, especially Elizabeth who has really been asking tough spiritual questions and has been so tenderhearted and emotional about Jesus lately. She keeps asking questions like, "What is faith?" and "What does loving God mean?" Finally after a lot of discussion she said that she wanted to pray and tell Jesus that she desired His forgiveness and that she wanted Him to be her boss (she's strongly resisted the idea of of handing over the reigns to someone besides herself until now). Since then there has been such a sweet change in her. She still battles the wrong habits established over her short life (don't we all), but the rage and rebellion are gone.
The concept of childhood conversion is something I struggle mentally with myself. With children raised in Christian homes, the line of when conversion actually occurs seems kind of blurred sometimes. In a sense they have always believed, but there comes a point when they want to make it their own, and that's where she was. Of course, she doesn't understand all of it, but that's something she'll grow in continually for the rest of her life. Billy and I don't want to be guilty of making salvation a pat formula and giving her false assurance because she "prayed to ask Jesus into her heart" (which is never mentioned in the Bible, by the way). Both of us prayed a sinner's prayer at young ages because that's what churchgoing kids from Christian families were supposed to do, but neither of us came to a place of real, personal faith until later. We didn't experience repentance, surrender, and authentic life change for years. And in the interim, we thought we were just fine, even though our lives said differently.
We hope, we pray for our children, that when they say they want to follow Jesus, that it will be authentic, not a decision they made because dad and mom wanted them to, or because their friends were doing it, or because they want fire insurance against hell. That's why we don't pressure them to make a decision or pray a prayer. That's the work of the Holy Spirit. Of course, we want to facilitate His work, we want to faithfully parent them, to love them with His love, and we want His work of salvation to be evident in our lives. One thing God impressed on my heart recently is that my children won't have much reason to desire Him if His glory is not evident in my life. It will only be so much ritual to them if they don't see the reality in me, the one who is always telling them about how wonderful it is to follow Jesus. And by glory, I don't mean forced cheerfulness or a pleasant disposition established by strength of will. I mean the "glow" that comes from having a living relationship with Christ. One of the greatest reassurances I have that Christianity is all it's said to be is seeing it in the lives of fellow Christ-followers. The victory and love and sweetness and light in their lives can't come from a mere religious exercise. And it's something that can't come from something that's not real. I see Jesus at work in the lives of these fellow apprentices of His, and it strengthens me. I want my children to be strengthened in the same way when they see Jesus in my life.
I grow in my faith daily, I'm blessed to have a husband who is sensitive to the work of the Holy Spirit in him. I look forward to seeing Jesus become more and more real in the lives of my children. Whether it's Sarah listening to me sing Jesus Loves Me, or Silas praying "God is great for Jesus A-MEN!" or Elizabeth asking about faith, I pray that I'm a consistent example and that they see Jesus in me. I trust that as we plant and water in this little portion of our mission field, we'll see God reap a beautiful harvest.