Growing in a Vibrant Friendship with Jesus
This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.
In my parent’s front garden is a statue of Jesus, sitting on a bench, holding two lambs in His arms. (Ok, so it’s actually a statue of St. Francis but you’ll soon see why I’m calling it a statue of Jesus) During a recent visit to my parent’s house, this beautiful statue took on a whole new meaning to me.
The boys had been playing outside for much of the morning while my Mom and I were sitting on the deck catching up. It was only when Cal and Owen came running up to me for a glass of water that I realized Brennan was nowhere to be found. I searched the backyard and all through the house to no avail, and I eventually began yelling Brennan’s name like a crazy woman for fear that he’d gone for a walk on his own. Finally, from out of nowhere, Brennan came running in the house and exclaimed, “I’m right here mom!” “Brennan,” I asked, “Where have you been baby? I’ve been calling for you and I was really starting to worry.” He replied, “Oh sorry Mom! I was out front playing with Jesus.” “Wow baby,” I said with a huge smile spreading across my face, “That is really wonderful. Did Jesus say anything to you while you were playing together?” Brennan exclaimed, “Yep, He said thanks for playing with me! Now can I go back outside?”
I’m inclined to believe that Jesus did indeed say those very words to Brennan. What I do know for sure is that our children are learning that Jesus not only loves them, but He likes them too! They are learning that Jesus wants to spend time with them- that He not only wants to be their Savior but their best friend.
Indeed it is a great and wonderful thing for our children to know about Him but I’m increasingly convinced that Jesus’ utmost desire is for them to actually experience Him as their best friend. Of course we want our kids to understand that Jesus is completely holy and His greatness is far beyond our human comprehension- which actually makes the fact that He draws near to us even more astounding- but we also want them to know He is walking right beside them holding their hand.
Unfortunately, however, we cannot make our children love their Heavenly Father. If I were being honest, I would admit that if I could, yes, I would make them love Jesus but only because I have tasted His goodness and I don’t want them to miss out on a single iota of it. But the reality is, “making” our kids love Jesus is not an option. Our children will never come to love Jesus simply because that is what we want for them. Our children will only come to know and love Jesus through their own personal experience of Him. And this is the reason we plant seeds of faith in our children’s hearts- that they might come to experience the goodness, and the greatness, and the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for themselves.
Planting seeds of faith in our children’s hearts begins with the interior work of teaching them who Jesus is and what His nature is towards them, which is why grace is our starting place. Then, as our children grasp their identity in Christ, they become more receptive to the other seeds we plant that nurture their friendship with Him, such as prayer, reading the Bible, memorizing Scripture, worship, and other spiritual disciplines.
Take a look at the graph below to see the cycle, and stay tuned for blogs that will explore how we can practically apply this model in our kid’s lives and lead them in a vibrant friendship with Jesus.