Last weekend we looked after our one-year-old grandson Silas while his parents were at a wedding in Vermont. A welcome break for them and a welcome opportunity for Gramps and Minnie, as we call ourselves. All of this meant we’d have him on Sunday morning.
Would we take him to church with us or skip worship? Would he be too fussy and make too much noise? Would there be childcare on hand if we needed it? What kind of worship experience would it be if we were constantly scrambling after a one-year-old?
Carol and I looked at each other, said a quick prayer, and put him in the stroller. Off we went—to church.
We learn from kids. Remember how Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these the that the kingdom of heaven belongs.” (Matthew 19:14). It’s easy as a parent or grand to think you know everything. But sometimes our sense of superiority and knowledge gets in the way of the delight and openness given to children.
From the moment we entered the sanctuary Silas was captivated. He stared up at the windows, the lights, the music, the choir, the people leading the prayers, the preacher giving the sermon. He stood up in the pew and looked back at the congregation who smiled at him.
No telling what he was thinking. I couldn’t begin to know. What I could see in his face was infinite curiosity and wonder. Doesn’t the kingdom of heaven start right there?
Kids learn from us. How would children ever get into the habit of church if their parents—and grandparents—didn’t offer up models? I flashed back to memories of Silas’s father, Tim, building forts out of pew cushions and fashioning paper airplanes from the church program.
Was he paying attention to anything? Well, something must have stuck, because Tim is now going to seminary to become a minister himself. Soon Silas will have the opportunity to hear sermons delivered by his own dad. (May he not be branded a P.K.)
Tim’s journey was not a direct flight. He happened upon various spiritual byways. But would he have found his way home without our planting of the seed at the youngest age? Yes, indeed, I was his Sunday school teacher for a couple of those years. But even more crucial was the community that surrounded him.
Trust in the Lord. To our amazement Silas lasted in that church service for over an hour, hardly murmuring a peep. I don’t doubt the newness of the experience, being with us in that unfamiliar space made a difference—his dad is doing an internship at another church. Or maybe the experience reminded him of being in that other church. No matter.
“Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray” the Bible says (Proverbs 22:6). We can’t begin to know what our children will become when they start out. The least we can do is share what’s important to us.
Silas. That name. It appears a couple of times in the Bible. I couldn’t help recalling the story of Silas and Paul in prison, “praying and singing hymns to God.” (Acts 16:25) and couldn’t resist taking a picture of this Silas in his grandmother’s lap as we all sang hymns. Like his biblical namesake.