Tonight in our Bible time we jumped into Matthew 5, discussing salt and light. It was a good discussion to have with 11 year-olds who have almost no church background or Biblical training, but it was a light dusting compared to what would follow.
After we finished, one of my boys asked me the same question he had asked me several times before, but this time I wasn’t shaking him, he wanted to know. It didn’t make sense to him; why did God give us a choice to follow him? Why do believers have to put up with unbelievers if God already knows who will and will not follow him.
For a few seconds I just stared at him with pursed lips, furrowed brow and blinked. I pondering how to explain limited atonement, sovereignty, man’s responsibility, image bearing, rejection, and a host of other doctrines all at once. I didn’t do that. I didn’t even try. I did leave it, for tonight, with a solid dose of trusting in the sovereignty of God and his ways which are far above ours, but that’s not what this post is about.
This post isn’t about the doctrinal implications of the question. It’s about my son, and others like him. But first, a little background.
In total we have seven children, four biological and three adopted. They are affectionately divided into two groups; the bigs and the littles. The youngest of the bigs is 17, the littles are all 11. For the most part our bigs have turned out OK. Mostly serving God, attending church and what not. However, looking back, we missed some real opportunities in their rearing; opportunities for discipleship.
They learned pretty well along the way and had a tremendous youth pastor who poured his very soul into theirs. For that we are eternally grateful. The areas we missed are in the details. They knew the broad strokes and we modeled what we see as the fundamental truths of the faith. They got those. In fact, give them about 2 services in a new church and they can probably tell you what’s missing and whether or not they will hear the Word preached and lived there. What we missed were some of the deeper doctrines and more robust skills of spiritual self-feeding.
They figured it out, but this time around we want more. We want to be more intentional in training them in the way they should go, more intentional about the finer points of Bible study, prayer, and reliance on Christ. We want to model the big ideas, sacrifice, service, love, and all that, too, but we really want to make sure they can continue to learn without us. They must be able to discern, learn, teach, and repeat on their own. It is the fundamental skill we have to teach them.
This is one of the beauties of foster adoptive care. In many ways we see it as God’s grace to US, as well as them. It is God’s way of giving us a mulligan, a do-over. A chance to put into practice the lessons learned on the first attempts; a chance to be more humble, less angry, more compassionate, more patient, more diligent. It is a chance to redeem the time because the days are evil (Ephesians 5:16), to set right some things which went awry. It is a time of growth, obedience, self-denial, and sometimes suffering. All of which draw us closer to Christ as we take them with us on our journey.
When my son voiced concern over God’s motive for putting believers and unbelievers together in a world where He already knew who would and would not follow Him, it hit me. In His infinite mercy and wisdom, God had granted us an unspeakable gift; a spiritual mulligan.
As bright and grounded as our older kids are, I don’t remember talking to them at 11 about the ramifications of God’s foreknowledge. I don’t remember intentionally talking to them about the responsibility and will of man. I remember preaching about it when they were in the room, but I’m not sure we talked about it on the sofa.
This time, they’ll get both. Thank you, Jesus, for the do-over, for the greatest mulligan of all.