Saturday, May 21, 2016
This morning as I was drinking my coffee and reading the bible I looked over at my four youngest children who were eating their breakfast in silence. Usually on Saturday morning I let them sleep in and then watch a cartoon. It's a tradition that stretches back to my own childhood when cartoons only aired on network television on Saturday mornings. Today I woke them earlier than usual. I wondered if they would be ornery but they weren't. They were just quiet. They had no words. I looked down at the passage I was reading again.
"Take words with you and return to the Lord. Say to him; 'forgive all our sins and receive us graciously, that we may offer the fruit of our lips'". Hosea 14:2.
I think about my children frequently throughout the day. My main concern is their faith and walk with God. So this morning I took the opportunity of their silence to invade their thoughts and direct them to Jesus. I asked them, "When do you worship?". Amidst the chewing and dazed looks there was a glimmer of thought behind their eyes. Even Camon, who is seven, looked instantly curious. But no one could really answer. I suspected this. I didn't really expect them to be any different than I was as a child.
My husband is a pastor so this may sound scandalous to some when I admit that I don't always feel like I'm worshipping at Church. I learn. I pray. I repent. But worship...that's harder to define. When I asked my children if they worship at church they did the thing with their eyes where they look like a cartoon character for a moment....you know the one; the side-to-side, deer caught in the headlights look. They seemed momentarily uncomfortable when I asked if they worshipped during service or if they pretty much just endured the experience until the last "amen". They all pretty much agreed that it was the latter. I thought as much. It was just the same for me. I'm glad they owned to it. It doesn't do anyone any good to candy coat the truth. It is what it is. I'd rather have them admit to me the truth than feel like they have to pretend.
In Hosea 14 the people of Israel are told to "take words" with them. It goes on to encourage repentance and surrender to God, looking to Him as the source of goodness and blessing and it finishes off with the words,
"Who is wise? He will realize these things. Who is discerning? He will understand them. The ways of the Lord are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them."
I can model a righteous life for my children and teach them scripture, encouraging them to hide it in their hearts so they do not sin against God. But I feel like modeling worship is difficult. It's so personal that modeling it might actually turn out to be nothing more than a show. But being thankful and teaching them to surrender with thankfulness I can do. Being thankful is a crucial part of worship. I can teach them to be repentant because worship does not happen without repentance and humility. I can also teach them how to "take words with them and return to the Lord". Helping my children to know who God is and notice how benevolent He is gives them the tools to formulate their own words of thanks and repentance. I could try to put words in their mouths but their worship would not be authentic. No, I want them to have the ability to take their own words with them when they return to God. I want them to be able to see for themselves how good He is to them. I want them to see that He fills their lungs with breath. He gives them bodies that function properly. He gives them beauty, strength, food, shelter, clothes. He meets all their needs. God says in Hosea,
"I am like a green pine tree; your fruitfulness comes from me."
What do we have that we have not been given? Not one thing. Our ability to blink...comes from God. Our ability to sleep and wake up...God's gift. We think, walk, talk, swallow, breath, hear, see, enjoy taste....every good and perfect gift comes from God! This and so much more I can teach my children to see. In doing so, if they are wise, it will be inevitable that they will "take words with them when they return to the Lord". God wants to hear our humbled hearts praise and thank Him! Whether we sit in a pew or on our front porch drinking our coffee if we are humble before God, repentant for our sin and filled with thanksgiving we will find what it means to worship Him and songs of praise will come. I believe that when we bring this attitude with us as we gather in church, our worship does rise before God as one voice. May God give us all the grace to see that quietly enduring 'till the last "amen" does not have to be our Sunday morning church experience.