Sunday, November 27, 2005

What do you think?

Could it be that my son is now also my brother?

Marci and I have always done our best to leave room for our children to develop at their own pace -- physically, mentally, and spiritually. We've consistently sought to create a family culture that allows and respect each family member's personal choices (within reason). We try to parent with wisdom and restraint -- as opposed to heavy-handed foolishness -- and I think we've succeeded in these regards, if I do say so myself...

With that said, it seems that our little Elliot (just three-and-a-half years old) has made a personal choice to follow Jesus.

Could this be possible for such a young child? Many will likely ask such a question, and the honest answer is that we cannot presume to make such a judgment. Yet given the circumstances, Marci and I believe that Elliot has recently joined us -- consciously and wholeheartedly -- as a part of the family of God.

In recent weeks, he's been showing more and more of a spiritual sensitivity. His young mind has started to grasp concepts such as forgiveness, generosity, and the distinction between good and evil. He eagerly absorbs stories from the Bible. He has spontaneously initiated times of prayer and worship. He's been talking to his school teachers about God -- explaining how God helps him calm his fears, wondering aloud why his self-proclaimed atheistic teacher doesn't believe in God... In many ways that can only be quantified by a parent who's witnessing the day-in day-out development of another human being, Elliot has simply been more aware of the spiritual realm. Noticeably more attuned to issues of faith and belief.

So it shouldn't have been surprising this evening, observing the first night of the Advent season, when Elliot responded to the story of God's promised son coming to earth. He was struck by the idea of giving one's whole heart to God. And when Marci explained her own thankfulness for a relationship with God -- Elliot asked point-blank: "Can I do that, too?" Thus with some basic guidance by his mother, Elliot prayed in simple childlike faith, with simple childlike words -- confessing his need for a Savior and his desire for Jesus to be in control of his heart.

From the look of things, Elliot has decided for faith in Christ. And if his spiritual journey is anything like mine (or Marci's), he will most likely continue refining and discovering new assets of his faith as he grows older. Personal study of the Bible, response to alternative presentations of the gospel message (I think I "prayed to receive Christ" three or four times during my growing up years!), encountering crossroads of decision and behavior, choosing for public baptism... It's a long road with many twists and turns.

But I'm curious... What do you think? Is such a decision credible from such a young boy? Are we right to rejoice with the angels upon another being's discovery of his place in God's Kingdom? Could it be that my son is now my spiritual brother? What do you think?


At 2:55 PM, Blogger Jason Slack said...

". . . You have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children." Matthew 11:25

It is definitely possible - and seems very likely. You have a great boy, Eric. I'm so encouraged by your family.

At 11:03 PM, Blogger Sander Chan said...

Als kind groeide ik op in een niet-Christelijk gezin. Ik ging wel naar een protestantse basisschool, waar ik een heel klein beetje leerde over de Bijbel en God. Ik denk niet dat ik toen al Christen was, niemand had mij uitgelegd dat ik gered zou moeten worden. Maar ik herinner mij wel dat ik ging bidden als ik bang was. Ik praatte toen al met God! Helaas heb ik geen gelovige familie die mij gestimuleerd heeft. (Ik kan mij wel herinneren dat ik heel graag een kinderbijbel wilde hebbben en mijn vader er toen één voor mij had gekocht!)
Achteraf kan ik misschien denken dat ik eerder volgeling van Jezus had kunnen worden. Maar gezien de latere loop van mijn leven ben ik al blij dát ik de Heer heb mogen leren kennen.
Ik denk dat een relatie met God zeer goed mogelijk is als kind.
Misschien is het ook belangrijk voor Elliot om - als ouders - zijn geloof te bevestigen en niet te twijfelen. Maar ik ben geen expert hoor...

At 2:05 AM, Anonymous Mark said...

Well, let me give you an analogy. Suppose there was a couple raising a young son. Suppose these parents were devout Marxists. Everywhere they went, they spoke about dialectical materialism, surplus value, the expropriation of the working classes, and the coming proletarian revolution. They read to their young son excerpts from "The Communist Manifesto" and "Das Kapital," which he absorbed with great interest.

His vocabulary became very tilted towards Marxist jargon. When he got into arguments with kids at preschool, he called them "bourgeois villains." When meeting his parents' friends, he salutes them with "Greetings, comrades!" When his teacher tells him that she doesn't believe in socialism, he begins reciting from heart quotations by Chairman Mao.

Maybe he has a friend at school whose parents were right-wing Austrian economists, a little girl who talked about the knowledge problem and the imperative of private property. Maybe there was another child there raised by Keynesians, who drew pictures of the IS-LM curve for show-and-tell. Perhaps if these parents knew how ideologically diverese this pre-school was, they might be a little nervous. But not too nervous, because they knew their kids were doctrinally sound and in possession of the one true economic faith.

Of course, we would have every reason to doubt that these young children really knew much about the ideas that were so important to their parents. It seems ridiculous that little children should be labelled Marxists or Keynesians simply because their parents were. But people casually refer to Catholic children and Muslim children and Hindu children all the time. How many kids could really explain the differences between these faiths, above a superficial level? ("Catholics wear crosses. Muslims wear headscarves. Hindus put dots on their foreheads.")

Children depend upon their parents to inform their understanding of the world, and will imitate them to a great degree. This especially applies to the religious sphere. There's nothing wrong with parents sharing their religious faith with their kids. But it's hardly a miracle if the kids start repeating the shibboleths they hear all around them.

At 2:58 PM, Blogger Eric Asp said...

Some interesting thoughts to consider... I was especially intrigued your analogy, Mark (a well-formed argument and a clever parallelism)...

I guess the real trick is to figure out when exactly we develop our own beliefs and when we are merely mimicking our surrounding culture -- because the fact of the matter is that many adults also find themselves following the faith/values/ideology of their parents (or the surrounding culture)... whether its Atheism or Christianity, Marxism or Keynesian Economics, or simply playing "football" by kicking a round black-and-white ball or by throwing an oblong brown and white ball. Sander's experience with faith is the exception rather than the rule. So with all of those other people, who find themselves generally aligned under their parents' belief systems, we have to ask exactly what it is that makes their decisions unique and meaningful?

I, for one, would tend to believe that my son has actually made a meaningful decision (although I cannot be so arrogant as to say for sure). Whether we apply the term "miracle" to it or not, I don't know... At any rate, my understanding of a relationship with Christ is that we must simply acknowledge our shortcomings and lack of perfection; recognize Jesus' role in allowing us to be clean and pure in front of God; and then make a basic decision to follow Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. And I don't see any reason why I should play the role of allowing or disallowing Elliot's personal response to this offer that is extended to any human being -- regardless of age, class, or creed.

At 2:16 PM, Blogger Bryan's Blog said...

Two things... First yes it is entirely possible. I met a guy just the other night that said he became a true follower of Jesus at the age of 3 and a half and he really did, despite living in a culture that was entirely unchristian. The way he knows for sure, because he is still a true follower of Christ and he has seen God work in amazing ways in his life.

But, there may be a small amount of truth to what Mark said. Children want to imitate their hero's and luckily Elliot's parents are great people to imitate. Time will tell if Elliot's decision was a true decision or just saying something to wins his parent's approval. But, either way it should not stop us from celebrating! Even if Elliot was 83 and a half we could not know for sure if his decision was real (only he and God could know), but we would rejoice in the hope that it is, in the hope that he has met the God of the universe!

I guess that is what makes Christianity different from Marxism, the hope.


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