Start children off on the way they should go,
and even when they are old they will not turn from it. ~ Proverbs 22:6
I’m sorry, but yes they will.
Some will step off accidentally and stumble right back on.
Some will wander off, oblivious to your calls and whistles.
Some will investigate that very pretty flower over there.
And some will test the boundaries every step of the way.
They most certainly will venture from it. It’s how they find their own way along a path with distinct boundaries but invisible guardrails. Kids are a distractable lot and tweens and teens are a naturally inquisitive bunch. Perhaps this is why we are advised to “start children off on the way they should go.” Children pay attention; they’re sponges for everything they see and hear.
One Sunday past, I sat behind Carly, a young mom, cradling her infant in a front pack. Her 2 year old son, Avery, stood next to her on the fabric seat of the pew. Grandpa had brought him in, but he wasn’t holding Avery’s hand. This boy was perfectly balanced; he was an experienced pew-stander. He demanded I shake his hand when the time for greeting was announced and then he remained standing for the anthem that was to follow.
Little Avery’s face just glowed with anticipation. Before the first chord, his happy voice rang out, “Hi Daddy! Hi Daddy!” Smiles on several faces looked his way, but Dad was focused on the music and its message. Avery’s dad Josh sang,
I believe in God our Father
I believe in Christ the Son
I believe in the Holy Spirit
Our God is three in one
I believe in the resurrection
That we will rise again
For I believe in the name of Jesus…
Hi Daddy! Hi Daddy!, sang Avery.
The promise we make to the children of our church upon the occasion of their baptism is this: “With God’s help, we will so order our lives after the example of Christ that these children, surrounded by steadfast love, may be established in the faith, and confirmed and strengthened in the way that leads to life eternal.”
Start children off on the way they should go, and …
…. even though they may wander and explore and adventure on their way, …
when they are old they will not turn from it. ~ Proverbs 22:6 (with my additions)
Oh, children… how wonderful it is to teach them. How magnificent it is to learn from them.
Stimulus–response. An amoeba does it. A Venus fly trap does it. A snake does it. We do it.
A tap on the knee and our leg kicks out, all by itself! Automatically, without consulting the rest of us. Even our brain is surprised. Reflexes are part of our programming designed to protect, support and allow us to move even without our permission. A sign we’re alive! Some things are just too important for a committee decision.
This morning I read, “True worship is a response to God’s glory, the evidence of God’s presence and power displayed in our lives…” (Christy Bailey, Devozine magazine)
What if worship was more than a worship service? More than a good sermon? More than a praise song? More than a few bucks in the offering plate? What if worship was stimulus-response, any time, anywhere? What if, when God got my attention I let my reflexes do the responding. What if…
- When God taps me, I respond.
- When God touches my heart, I cry.
- When God tickles me, I giggle.
- When God calls me, I turn.
- When God whistles, I look up.
- When God calls me to dinner, I come to the table.
- When God shows me a miracle, I stand still.
- When God thinks in me, I write.
- When God writes to me, I correspond.
- When God speaks, I listen.
- When God whispers, I lean in.
- When God invites, I accept.
- When God hugs, I sigh.
- When God kisses, I smile.
- When God takes my hand, I squeeze.
- When God opens a door, I walk through.
- When God says, I do.
- When God does, I join in.
- When God sends a sunrise, I applaud.
- When I see God, I point him out.
If God and I have a reflex relationship, there’s no sense beating myself up about a missed opportunity, any more than I’d chastise my leg for not kicking when the doctor tapped my knee with the hammer. And it’d be pretty silly to kick later hoping to get full credit. I would have to be extra careful about responding from fear or anxiety, though. You know what a haunted house can do to your reflexes.
Imagine, something as simple as ‘stimulus-response’ wired in so God and I can connect 24-7.
At 9:35 am God said, “Good morning” in the dazzling rays through my window.
I said, “Good morning, sunshine.” And there was worship on a Wednesday in my kitchen.