Zach thinks internally for extended periods of time. He ponders deeply and teases out all of the options and works through all of that information inside his mind. He doesn’t often share his thoughts directly, but he asks a LOT of questions. If you are willing to put in the time and effort to read between the lines, you can catch glimpses of what he’s thinking about.
This morning he asked two very important questions.
1. Mom, is it a rule that we HAVE to go to church?
We were getting ready to leave for church and everyone was in various stages of getting dressed or eating breakfast or finding shoes. Important questions from my kids are rarely timed to those few moments that I am available to think clearly and share from my heart. 🙂 I could have said, “Yep, in this house, it’s the rule!” or some other version of the My House/My Rules parenting practice. But he wasn’t asking if I expect him to go to church. Zach wanted to know if God expected him to go to church. And that’s an entirely different question!
I have learned to pause when I’m having an important conversation and think before I speak. (I have NOT yet learned to pause when I’m angry and think before I speak… I’m still working on that life skill). But I took that moment to think, and then I answered my inquisitive son.
“No, honey. It’s not a rule. You don’t HAVE to go to church.”
Cue the ominous music! Just kidding.
I followed up with, “We don’t go to church because we HAVE to. We don’t HAVE to! God doesn’t make us go to church – He wants us there because our hearts want to be with Him. We go to church because He loves us and we love Him and we are in His family, so we want to spend time together with Him and His other kids, just like in any family.”
Zach proceeded to announce that he didn’t want to go to church today. He explained that he didn’t want to go, that he would rather stay home, and that he just didn’t feel like going to church.
Again, I could have pulled rank and said, “Tough tooties, Buddy, you’re going to church!” You know, the whole My House/My Rules bit.
But Matt and I work hard to let our kids have a voice and we value their real thoughts and feelings. If I shut down Zach’s real thoughts and feelings when he shares them, I can kiss his willingness to talk to me goodbye! It’s already a rarity to hear from him; I want him to experience my delight in his willingness to share himself.
I thanked him for telling me how he felt and just barely managed to avoid saying, “You’re still going, but good job sharing! Now get in the car!” Something made me pause and wait, and I think that something was actually a Someone. I needed to listen to my son, and God was nudging my heart to wait it out.
Zach said that he knew we go to church to learn about God, but that he wanted to stay home and read his Bible. That way, he would still get the results but not have to go. He has carefully thought this through, hasn’t he?
I agreed with him that we DO go to church to learn about God. But a big part of learning about God is being with Him in community with the rest of His family. So we need to go be with God at church, but we also need to be with the other people there, because they love Him too. And we need to take care of each other – how will we love them if we don’t get to see them? And how will they love us and take care of us if they don’t get to see us?
Zach nodded and didn’t have anything further to say. He went and got his shoes on and seemed ready to leave whenever we all managed to get ourselves out to the van.
I called him back over because I wanted to summarize for him. “Zach, you are right. We can read the Bible to learn about God. And I LOVE that you read your Bible and learn all the time! That is definitely something that we can do by ourselves and it is important to do. But that’s just one of the important things that we can do at church. If we are in God’s family, He is with us wherever we are. But we also need to go be together with other people who love Him and learn together.” My sweet son smiled his standard “Got it, Mom, let’s move on!” smile and said, “Okay, Mom.” And that was that.
I am so grateful for his question! I love having a glimpse into his thought process. I also know that many, many people who love God ask that same question: Do I really need to be IN church? Because I can get the same thing on my own as I get at a church. These conversations need to happen in the safety and openness of our home throughout our kids’ lives so that a) they know it is important to ask those hard questions, and b) we can gauge their hearts and determine what we need to say in that moment to answer their questions. “You’re going to church!” is not an answer. That’s a rule. I’ve fought a long time to escape the slavery of the rules that have been associated with Christianity! I do NOT want to pass that along to my children! So no, we don’t HAVE to. But we love to go to church. We love to be with Him wherever we are, and we love to be with Him in a pile of other broken people who love Him too. And seriously, if you are looking for a pile of broken people, the Church is the FIRST place to look! We are all a mess! But Jesus knows that. And we know it too. And we are trusting Him to take our broken shards of disaster and restore us into the breathtaking beauty of a mosaic in His Master Artist hands. Each piece of glass needs to be there or the picture isn’t complete. Your sharp edges belong right next to mine… and Zach’s sharp edges belong there with us too.
Zach’s second important question happened in the car on the way to church. The twins get an allowance every week (Nathaniel will start getting one when he begins kindergarten, just like they did) and they divvy it into “for God,” “for savings,” and “for spending” piles. The “for God” pile has been accumulating for about a month because we keep forgetting to have them bring it with them to church! We finally remembered this morning, and the twins had a handful of quarters and a few dollar bills that they have been saving. And then Zach said the following:
2. Mom, how do we give this money to God? Like, does someone at our church go up in a spaceship to take it to Him? How do we know if He gets the money when we give it at church?
Seriously, people! I need a break between these brilliant questions! He was just firing off big ones today!
I laughed and agreed that it would be SUPER COOL if we got to take it in a spaceship up to God, wouldn’t it? Then I explained that when we give money to a church, we are trusting them to use it for things that God would want. Rissa said, “Yeah, if they took it home and spent it on toys or something, we couldn’t trust them!” And Zach said, “Yeah, the managers at the church would have to be responsible because that’s God’s money!” I told them that I’m sure that those bad things happen at some places and that is NOT okay. I also explained that we would not give money somewhere that wasn’t using it for things that God cares about.
Then we talked about the things that God cares about. Loving people, telling people that God wants to know them and for them to know Him, taking care of people who need things that we can give them. We are trusting the people at our church to do good things with God’s money.
On the way home, I had the chance to thank Zach for asking such an important question! We ALL need to ask that question, and I’m so proud of him for wanting to make sure that the money he was giving to God was actually going to a good place.
Matt reminded the kids that all of everything belongs to God – God doesn’t need our money to come up to Him in a spaceship because He already has everything everywhere! And God doesn’t need our money down here either! It all already belongs to Him. But when we remember that it is His and we make sure that the first part of our money goes to God and the things He cares about, it helps us live our lives in a way that is focused on caring about important things. Mommy and Daddy do that too – we give God the first part of our money to help us remember that it is already His!
The kids and I heard a song on the radio this week that we had never heard before. They often ask me what a song means or what the musicians are singing about. I had to stop and listen because I didn’t know since I hadn’t heard this one before. Here are the first few lyrics:
I woke up this morning
Saw a world full of trouble now
Thought, how’d we ever get so far down
How’s it ever gonna turn around
So I turned my eyes to Heaven
I thought, “God, why don’t You do something?”
Well, I just couldn’t bear the thought of
People living in poverty
Children sold into slavery
The thought disgusted me
So, I shook my fist at Heaven
Said, “God, why don’t You do something?”
He said, “I did, I created you”
This morning as we talked on the way home, I reminded the Tinies that we heard that song – that God DID do something! He sent Jesus to be our connection to God so that we can be restored to His family, even though our sins separate us. And He made us and put His heart into ours so that we can love and care like He does! He doesn’t need our money for Him – He needs us to share ourselves (including our money) to meet the needs that others have! So instead of asking why doesn’t God fix that, we can go help and know that this is something that God cares about. And for whatever reason, God chooses to people as His hands and feet. More lyrics:
I’m so tired of talking
About how we are God’s hands and feet
But it’s easier to say than to be
Live like angels of apathy who tell ourselves
It’s alright, “somebody else will do something”
Well, I don’t know about you
But I’m sick and tired of life with no desire
I don’t want a flame, I want a fire
I wanna be the one who stands up and says,
“I’m gonna do something”
But we’re never gonna change the world
By standing still
The kids said, “Yeah! God did do something! He made US!”
The Olson Tinies rock my world every single day. I have no doubt that God will rock the whole world with them and people like them – by placing His heart into their hearts! And isn’t that what God does with all of us as He transforms us? He takes our hardened hearts of stone and gives us a live, beating heart that looks like His. I love Zach’s two important questions. I love our family that God made. And we are altogether incapable of standing still. 🙂