We have a set bedtime ritual for our son: one more last wrestling match, teeth brushing, story time, devotions, prayer, lights-out; followed by an hour of chatting, cuddling and escape attempts. We get a new stack of books each week, along with books I borrow from the school I teach at and the books we own. There is no shortage of printed words here. At bedtime, our son gets to pick two books for his story time. Last night he picked G.I. Joe comics.
In one issue*, the Joes are tasked with recovering a spy plane that crashed in Afghanistan. While on their way, they are intercepted by Oktober Guard, the Russian special mission team. A battle ensues and the Joes win the day with cunning ingenuity.
During our devotions, we read Jesus’ words about forgiving our enemies. My son looked confused.
“Even the bad guys with red stars?”
“Jesus thinks so.”
“But they’re the bad guys!”
The interesting part is that we have never explained what forgiveness is, but he inherently knows that it entails being generous with our enemies; we have to give a part of ourselves to malefactors.
It is a mistake for me to ever think family devotions are for my family. Nightly devotions with my son are not for him, they are for me. I am the convict; the one who is convicted. I need to hear the words of Jesus again.
Repentance and devotions make the parent and child partners in their devotional life, daily renewing their bond. Repentance is a sign of new life. Repentance is the pulse of faith. Devotions coupled with repentance make theology vibrant, keeping it safe from academics and in the realm of daily experiments in grace, prayer and obedience.
We aspire to find peace with God in an active devotional life. But we are not always able to discern between peace and complacency, and healing and mending—this does not matter until young faith asks questions of our devotions.
If we do not find healing in God, no matter the price, our children might not. If we have allowed other elements to mend us, such the passing of time, sex, or booze, then we have been nurtured by vice. This is idolatry.
Devotions with children remind adults to refocus their lives and practice the basics. Devotions give us a second chance to do a few things better.
Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.
By: Mark Liebenthal
*G.I. Joe A Great American Hero, Vol. 1 issue 6, “To Fail is to Conquer…To Succeed is to Die!”