When I heard a kid stomping up the front porch steps and thought I heard crying, I perked up and got ready to handle the latest injury, whether it was skinned knees or just injured feelings (both happen a lot with three boys in one house).
As the front door slammed I realized it was Aiden. I waited for an explanation of what was wrong, but instead he stomped up the stairs to his room and closed his door behind him, offering no explanation. I knew I needed to go check on him, but I had no idea that it was him that was about to teach me a big lesson.
I slowly opened his door and scanned the room and didn’t see him, but his muffled cries led me to his closet. The rest of his room was like that of any 10 year old – lego creations and smelly soccer gear strewn about from the game he had played earlier that day.
Inside the closet was a little different. Aiden had requested to keep the floor clear when he moved into the room. After watching War room, he had wanted a “war room” (prayer closet) of his own. So he had busied himself taping Scriptures to the wall that he would turn into prayers. And it was here I found him now, knees gathered close to bury his face in them.
I crouched down and just sat across from him, asking him if he wanted to talk about it. I waited patiently, scanning the cards with Scripture scribbled in messy handwriting while he considered it. Finally he began to explain about some argument between friends, and I listened intently for the root of the real problem.
I talked to him about how people are not always nice and what our response should be. We talked about a sin nature and how it is Jesus that gives us the power to be loving, patient, kind, and to put others above ourselves. Not everyone has that, and we can’t take it personally.
He looked me straight in the eye, and with uncontrolled emotion choked out the words, “but sometimes I feel like I am NEVER going to be able to convince them about Jesus.”
I was taken aback at his comment but more so by his intensity. “Baby it isn’t your job to convince anybody about anything”, I gently explained. “You have to ask yourself if you want to convince them because you want to be right or because you really just want them to know”, I added, “and if it is the latter, then you need to pray for them and be a good friend to them. You might plant seeds that you will never see the end result of, but the rest isn’t your job.
His shoulders lowered and his posture softened a little, as if he halfway accepted what I was saying. For months he had played with these kids, and for months he would have good days followed by bad ones. He would complain that they argued over something about God. My instinct had been to tell him to avoid the conflict and “just don’t play with them if they aren’t being nice”, but I was beginning to realize how wrong I had been.
Is that not what I have done? Is that not wherein the sin lies? Caring more about what others think that what God thinks? Caring more about their opinion than their soul? How well I knew: there is no such thing as a fisherman who doesn’t fish.
Some things are so common sense from a Biblical perspective but seem so radical in this world in which we live. “Follow me”, He [Jesus]had said, “and I will make you fishers of men”. I had said I would follow, and I have shared my faith so many times, but I can’t tell you the last time I sat in a closet and just wept over the eternity of another the way my son was doing. Was his heart too tender? Or was mine too hard?
We talked a while longer and it became clear how long he had been trying and how desperately he wanted them to believe. “He said the Old Testament is all real, but that the New Testament is a lie”.
“Wait”, I stopped him. “He believes the Bible is real”?
“Just the Old Testament”, he said in frustration.
“Jacob* … is Jewish”?
He nodded and wiped his tear-stained cheeks.
I talked to him a while longer and left him when I could tell he was calm and feeling better, but I knew that I was leaving with more insight than he was.
I reflected on the previous months and tried to recount how many of their little arguments had involved God. How many kids had he tried to share with repeatedly? How many times had he come to me with hurt feelings, complaining that they didn’t believe him or had even made fun of him or treated him badly for what he believed?
And how many times had he gone right back out there – determined afresh to be a good friend and to stand firm in the face of ridicule if it came up again? Or even to be the one that brought it up?
When I left our conversation that day I told him that a lot of adults are afraid to talk about Jesus if they think someone would be offended or make fun of them, and that I thought he was incredibly brave for being a good friend and telling the truth regardless of the cost. I doubt he knew how true that really was, or how his mother left that room a little more courageous than she had entered it.
Billy Graham once said “Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened”. I think that applies to brave little boys, too.
Or maybe anyone who spends time in a prayer closet.
*Name changed for privacy.