Everyone knows that the proverbial “Camp Conversions” happen on Thursday nights.
They don’t happen on Monday nights.
If you ever spent time attending a christian “Youth Camp”, you know this to be truth. Thank you, “University of Joy”, circa early to mid 1980’s, you taught me this well. There is a cycle; a procedure to follow, for maximum results. Rules to adhere to. Start off slow, deprive the kids of sleep, build the drama and the emotionalism to a fevered pitch and then “BAM”; there you have it. Scare them half to death with, well, death–and hell–on Thursday night, and there you’ve got it, recipe for an “outpouring of the spirit” and the opportunity to say “we had 279 saved this week! In fact, we got everyone saved except that one rebellious kid.” Said with a sad shake to the head. Dang it. The one that got away.
Does that sound cynical? Sarcastic? I suppose it does. But you know there is an element of truth there.
Conversions at camp do not happen on Monday night. Nor do they happen when the focus is on the Gospel message as opposed to Gospel-absent yelling and stomping and shaming of people.
Conversions at camp do not happen on Monday night.
Except for when they do.
Everything within me wants to share my girl’s story in this space. But it is not mine to share. At all.
Her story is sacred. It is important. It is not to be thrown away, or thought of flippantly.
And we, as parents, must be sensitive to that. We should never share their story, or post their picture on social media, or use them as a sermon or writing illustration, unless we first ask permission. And, even then, we should make sure that they understand why, and let them help us tell their story. I try to be conscientious of that; I don’t always succeed, but it is important. So, I won’t share here.
But, it doesn’t mean that the mother in me doesn’t want to.
Because 3 John 1:4 is not nothing: 4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
And, I am overwhelmed with joy tonight. More joy than I have experienced, to date, because of the truth of 3 John 1:4.
But, simultaneously, I am wrecked tonight.
This week, I’ve attended the evening worship sessions of the Missions Camp Imitate that is being held at our church. I’ve done so primarily for two reasons. First, I’ve been curious about the guest speaker. He is an author and seminary professor. I’ve not read any of his printed stuff, but I’ve read some of his blogs, particularly about cultural engagement. So, I was curious.
Secondly, I wanted to hear what my girl was hearing, so we could discuss if the opportunity arose. This was the most crucial factor in my decision to attend; and now I see why. She has heard some hard-to-hear things. Things that have hit home, on many levels. I’m so grateful that I know what those things are.
And those things are both responsible for the co-mingling of tremendous joy…..and grief.
But, I also know where my hope lies. And, I know where her hope lies. And, she is starting to learn where her hope lies.
I know the depths of having been saved; and of continually being saved. And I long for that first-hand knowledge to fall upon the souls of my children as well.
Salvation. One of the greatest-and probably should be the greatest–desire a Christ-follower who is also a parent should have for their child is that they, too, would know the reality of salvation. However, if a parent is not a Christ-follower, and their child grasps the gospel and becomes a follower of Christ, then sometimes it is bewildering and concerning for the non-Christ-follower parent. I’ve even had parents tell me that it frightened them.
That wasn’t the case for me, but I can understand their anxiety. No, because I grew up in the church, and because I was the wife of a minister and was always at church, I naturally expected my children to be baptized at some point. How could they not, really? What choice did they have? But there wasn’t joy in watching their baptism. Happiness, because they were happy. Happy, because everyone around them were “Happy for them” and “Proud of them” (don’t we love it when others are proud of our children, too?).
But not joy. In fact, there was a twinge of sadness, even.
However, it is a much different experience when, as Christ-following parents, we grasp the implications of salvation for our souls and our minds, and realize how much we want that for our children, too. When we, ourselves, have experienced that grace first-hand, then we start to realize that we want nothing more than for our children to also experience that grace.
I think we become so conditioned to the idea of someone being “saved”, that we do not understand the grace involved. We make it so routine. We are happy, we clap when someone “comes forward” at an invitation to “accept Jesus” (as if that is even close to appropriate language to describe salvation. It’s not. Not even.) But, do we stand in shock and awe? Not that God could save a wretch like us…..but that He would save a wretch like us. Like me. And like every other soul that comes to see the cross for what it is:
So, when we start to grasp (because, it can never be grasped fully; it is beyond us) exactly what God has done, in our own souls, that’s when we start to understand how deeply we long for our children to know that very same grace.
And, when we see our children ache, and when we suddenly understand the why behind their ache, we come to a new understanding that we can not fix their ache. I cannot undo the turmoil my kids have experienced. I would give absolutely anything, to be able to. Absolutely anything.
But I can’t.
But, I can see. And know. And remember. And not forget.
But, even in all that, because I, myself, have experienced the scandalous grace of the cross, I know–maybe deeper then most– that that very same scandalous grace is their only hope.
And so, prayer.
I pray for my children. Earnest prayer. The ones that are Christ followers, and the ones that are not. Yet. (Please God, let that pause only be a “yet”.) Real prayer. Every single morning. That they will know overarching saving grace in the form of a man who would willingly go to the cross for the forgiveness of their sins.
How Deep the Father’s Love. So deep, it is nearly too much to bear. Too much to look upon. But that’s the kind of love I want my children to know.
But also this— that they would also know grace on a more micro scale–that they would sense God’s presence. His very realness. Their very not-aloneness. That He will not abandon or forsake them. That they will know that they are loved, deeply, by me, as inadequate as my love is.
And prayed for, consistently. Without fail.
And, I will never, ever stop knowing and seeing and praying for them.
1 Thessalonians 5:23-25:
23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.