“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
On March 17th, our beautiful daughter, Lily, made the most important decision she will ever make and because of that decision, she made the angels of God rejoice! Hallelujah! Yes, that is the date that will forever be solidified in her heart (and mine) as the day she chose Jesus. Just as the woman in the passage above wanted to tell all of her friends and neighbors about how she found her coin, I wanted to share with all of you about how my daughter found Jesus. It is my hope and prayer it can either draw others closer to the Lord or perhaps help others know how simple it is in showing others the love God has for them and leading them in that prayer for their salvation.
A bit of background here before I share the story of those precious moments I experienced with my daughter. Micah and I have had several friends' children being offered an invitation at church, a sporting event, or such to accept Jesus as their personal Savior or be their "Forever Friend" (and many are accepting-praise God). Although we have no qualms with these events or the decisions they produced for our friend's families, it was not sitting well for us about our own children. Lily is not quite 6 years old and we have always wondered if she was a bit too young to truly make that decision for herself without being convinced by an adult it was the right move for her. We wanted that moment to be 100% genuinely approached out of her OWN desire, not directed by another person's desire FOR her. We just didn't want her precious little hand being raised because she thought she was "supposed to" or because her favorite teacher was leading the invitation, or because her best friend was raising her hand. Obviously, Micah and I want nothing more for our children than to have them all come to know Jesus in a personal and preciously intimate way, but we wanted them to choose that for themselves when the time was right for them. Out of those desires, we chose to not even talk much about this decision they would one day have to make if they truly wanted to follow Christ and get into Heaven. It didn't seem natural yet--we decided we would wait until they were a little older and better capable (in our eyes) of understanding it. We have, however, often talked about how God has created our children and lives in their hearts because He loves them and that our desire for our family is to follow His will for us, so the concepts of Christ as the top priority were not necessarily new for Lily on this day. Clear as mud??? Okay, on with the story...
Saturday, March 17th was a pretty typical day in our family life. I needed to do some shopping for summer clothes for the kids and even myself. I decided I would take Lily along to make sure her shorts were the proper length for school before buying them. Shopping days like these don't happen very often, so she was excited as she LOVES these longer "girl time" days when it's just me and her out shopping together. We began our typical shopping trip at Goodwill for their 50% off day (l.o.v.e. those) and then hit up Once Upon A Child. These two stops literally took us to lunch time. So, there we sat in our van in a parking lot eating our peanut butter and honey sandwiches when out of the blue comes the question that sparked it all. *I've changed the names of the other people in this story for their privacy.
Lily begins, "Mom, Max told me yesterday that he was born and then a long time later his Mom and Dad got married and then they had another baby, but that can't happen so I told him he was wrong." Hmmm....I swallowed my bite of sandwich with a smile on my face knowing that someday I'd knew I'd have to have this little talk with Lily--I just wasn't thinking it would be on our shopping day in the van during lunch. So, I answered, "Well, honey, that's actually not true. Babies can be born by people who aren't married." Lily, "Huh!?!?! You and Daddy told me people get married first and then have babies." I responded, "Yep, that's what we've told you because that is the way God wants it to happen, but sometimes people don't know God or don't know what God wants for them or maybe even they just forget what God wants for them and they do whatever they want to do. God wants men and women to love each other, get married, and then have babies, but sometimes people just don't do that." Lily continues, "How do they have babies when they aren't married?" Hmmm.....
I quickly tried to figure out what all to say so she would hear the truth about God's design of sex and yet be totally age appropriate at the same time (*Micah and I are not embarrassed, nervous, or frightened about talking to our kids about sex--or anything for that matter--so please don't think I was so taken back by this question that I was trying to avoid it, I was simply trying to figure out what all to say and not to say based on her age). I continued, "Well, Lily, when two people are in love and want to express that love for each other in a physical way they can have what's called called 'sex'. Sex is something that can make the woman pregnant and create a baby. God doesn't want us to have sex until we are married, but if people don't know God then sometimes they do it even when they aren't married. If that happens then they might get pregnant and can have a baby like Max's parents did. But the cool part, Lil, is that Max's parents learned who God was and how much He loved them and decided to get married after all. Now they love each other, are following God and having more babies." At that moment, I was completely expecting the conversation to turn towards more questions about sex and was gearing up to answer all of her questions. However, what I said in response to Lily's question spurred on an even deeper question in her tender heart that changed the direction of the conversation completely.
With all sincerity in the world, Lily looked over at me and questioned, "Mom, how does somebody not know God?" Startled at the change in subject, I answered, "Lily, that is a great question! Sometimes people don't go anywhere, like church, where they would be able to hear about who God is and how much He loves them. They might not have any friends or people around them who talk about God, so they just don't know who He is. Or, they might actually know who God is, but they just decide they don't want to believe He loves them so they do whatever they want to in life and pretend He doesn't exist." Lily continued, "But I thought God lives in our hearts?" I answered, "You're right. He does live in our hearts, but we have to believe for ourselves that He's in there and then chose to follow what He wants." Lily continued, "I thought having God in your heart just meant you get to go to Heaven?" I, in awe of what was transpiring, answered, "Well, yes, that's true, Lil. If you accept Jesus as your Savior in your heart you are given the gift of going to Heaven, but that's not the only thing having Jesus in your heart is about. If we want to go to Heaven, we have to ask Jesus to forgive us for our sins. Do you know what a sin is?" Lily answered, "Yep. It's when you are angry." Chuckling a little, I said, "Well, no, not exactly. You can be angry and that not be a sin, but if you act out in your anger in a way that God doesn't want you to, then that is sinning. Like, if you are mad at your brothers and you decide to hit them in your anger, that would be a sin because God doesn't want us to hit someone else. Does that make sense?" Lily, "Yep." I continued, "Well, all of the sins we do deserve a punishment. Kinda like if you do something wrong in our house, we give you a 'time out' as your punishment? (Lily nodded in agreement) Well, when we sin the punishment is that when we die we would actually go to a place called hell! (Lily's eyes about bugged out of her head at this point). Do you know what hell is?" Lily, "Nope."
"Well, hell is a place that is opposite of Heaven. You know how Heaven is a beautiful, fun, happy place where God is and you want to go? Lily excitedly, "...and has jewels that sparkle and gold streets!!!" Me, "Yep, all of those awesome things...well, hell is the opposite. It is a scarey, dark, and sad place where God can never be. It's a place you never want to go to. When you sin though, that is where we are supposed to go for our punishment." Lily, very concerned, says, "Mom, I don't EVER want to go there." So, I, in complete awe and disbelief almost that this is actually happening, said, "Well, Lil, there's a way to make sure you never go there. Do you remember how God sent Jesus to the earth and he died on the cross?" Lily, "Yep." I continued, "Well, Jesus died on that cross because he loved us and didn't want us to ever have to go to hell because of our sin. When He died He took all of the punishment we deserve from our sins and went to hell for us. While He was in hell, He took away the keys to the doors of hell so that everyone who loves Him would never be able to get in there ever again. Isn't that so cool! After He took the keys, He rose from hell or the grave and won against sin!" Lily, completely listening, exclaims, "That's Easter, Mom!" Me, "Yep! That's Easter! See, Lily, God loves me and He loves you and He loves everyone so much. He wants us all to be living our lives the way He desires and then in the end He wants to take us to Heaven with Him forever. Is that something you want?" Lily answered, "Yeah! But what do I do?" I answered, "Well, you just have to pray. You have to tell God you want to accept the gift He has for you--the gift of Heaven, freedom from the punishment for your sins, and that you want to live your life for Him. Is that something you want to pray?" Lily, "Yep! I want to pray that." Silently already thanking God for this moment, I said, "Well, we can do that right now if you want to. You have to do that yourself, though, Lily. It's not something Mommy can pray for you. If you want to make that decision for yourself, you have to pray the prayer to God yourself." Looking a bit concerned, Lily said, "But, Mommy, I don't know what to pray." I assured her by saying, "Well, do you want Mommy to say a line of the prayer and then IF you agree with it, you can repeat it?" Lily, looking relieved now, answered, "Yes, Mommy, you say it and I'll repeat it."
And so, we grabbed each others' hands and prayed to God...
"God, thank You for loving me. Jesus, thank You for going to hell for me and freeing me from the punishment of my sins. Thank You for the gift of Heaven. I want to follow You and do what You want me to do. Please live in my heart and help me too live for you. Help me to love You the way You want me to. Help me to love others the way You want me to. Help me to love myself the way you want me to. I accept You as my Savior and I love You. Amen."
When that prayer was done, with tears in my eyes, I looked over to see before my face a little girl with a HUGE smile. Before I knew it she was throwing her arms around me and hugging me tight. It was a moment I will never forget! The tears just would not stop. What a profound moment in her life I was honored and humbled to witness. We called Daddy at home to tell him the wonderful news and for Lily to tell him I just kept crying and crying as she rolled her eyes (*smile*). I kept reiterating to Lily how SPECIAL this moment was in her life. She was literally beaming when she next asked me, "Mom, what is the name of that prayer?" I answered, "Well, Lily, there isn't really a name for it, it's just a prayer." She insisted, "Mom, I think we should name it and then when we get home, we should write it out on a paper so I can share it with everyone!" Oh, my heart....not only is my girl giving her life to the Lord in one moment, the next moment she is becoming the evangelist God desires all of us to be! What a testimony of the child-like faith and heart of Christ He puts inside a new believer...even at almost 6 years old. So beautiful. I told Lily it seemed like an excellent idea to name that prayer and asked her what she wanted to call it. She answered, "I think I'd call it the 'I Prayed to God' prayer." *Smile* I assured her that was a cool name for that prayer.
After our phone call to Daddy, a few more hugs, and letting Lily know the angels in Heaven were literally rejoicing and singing and having a party because they were so joyful for Lily's decision, we decided to head off to Kohls for the next part of our shopping trip. Thankfully God put something on my heart as we were walking by the jewelry department that stopped me in my tracks. I thought it would be great for Lily to have something extra special to "mark" this moment in her mind for all days to come. I wanted her to have something to remember that this day was even more special than a birthday or other past special day. I thought a cross necklace would be perfect, but as we looked, she did not like any of them. I was trying to convince her she would learn to like it (ha!) when she focused her sights on a beautiful little locket engraved on the top with a beautiful cross. "I want that one, Mom, and I can put my picture in it!" exclaimed Lily. I looked at the price and inwardly gasped until I realized it was majorly on sale, I had an additional coupon and a $10 gift card that would all make it completely affordable (go God!). I teared up again as I thought of how incredibly perfect this day had become.
That night I uploaded a picture of my little girl I took when we got home, typed out an incredibly small "March 17, 2012", printed them from our computer, and placed them proudly into the locket. Now Lily will forever have a keepsake of that day--a locket with a cross on the front filled with a picture of her on the very day the angels rejoiced over her as well as the date in case she ever needs that simple reassurance that she was indeed loved by the Lord of Lords and secure in Him.
What a day! What an incredible day! It goes to show we never really know what all the Lord has in store for our every-day life and being prepared for anything is truly valuable. I thought I was taking Lily shopping and God was instead preparing my daughter's heart for Him! Thank You, God, for Your unending and abounding love for all of Your children. It also goes to show that even in our sinfulness of life, God can use it for GOOD! Thank you, Max's parents, for allowing God's love to cover over your sins as well so that eventually down the road, He could use it to open up a discussion that ended up guiding my daughter to Him. What you might have thought to be something of your "negative" past has turned into something so beautiful--in your son, Max, in your marriage, in your additional children, and now also in my daughter's life.
If you are a person reading this post and learning about God's love for you for the first time, I highly encourage you to pray the "I Prayed to God" prayer from your own heart and accept all of the grace and blessings God has for you as His child. Maybe His will for you today was to hear the story of His saving grace in Lily in order to reach your own heart today. Do not let the moment slip away if this is what He is calling to you. He wants to be the Savior of not only Lily, but of you too.