Warm in the glow of a stained glass window, a communion cracker in my hand, I join the congregation in singing an old, familiar hymn and cast my cares on Jesus for the one-hundredth time this week. Smiling, I remember a similar Sunday morning about thirty-five years ago. I can’t say for sure, but I think that we sang the same hymn that day.
Afterwards, hand in hand, my daddy and I made our way up the burnt orange aisles of the church that he grew up in, the church my grandmother and great-grandparents still attended, reds, oranges, and yellows from tall, kaleidoscope windows on either side playing across our faces as we left the sanctuary. Trying to match my daddy’s steps, I doubled mine, clutching a Bible and some Sunday school artwork to my chest.
I was anxious to get home because I knew exactly how the rest of my day would go. Grandmother was coming over for lunch, and my mother had a roast in the oven. When we got home, the house would smell like butter and salt and naptime, and I would get to take my scratchy tights off. We’d eat and talk, and my grandmother would stay for coconut pie and coffee. She’d get a little on her front, and I would think she was cute that way. Daddy would watch football for a while in dress socks, and, if I timed it right, I could snuggle in with him just before he fell asleep and listen to his heartbeat until I fell asleep, too. There was a certain predictability about my childhood that I found very comforting both as a child living it and now as an adult remembering it, not just in the schedule that we followed or the company that we kept, but in the fact that my parents ordered their lives and the decisions that they made according to their faith. While they might have surprised me once in a while, I don’t remember there ever being any unhappy surprises, nothing that would tilt our home off-center, so to speak. That’s because they made a decision early in their marriage to build their home on the solid rock of Jesus Christ and the truth of God’s Word.
They didn’t, as I see some Christian parents doing these days, spend a lot of time worrying about whether or not they were being given the chance to exercise their freedom in Christ, distracting friends and family members with the “permissible,” but not so “beneficial,” choices that they were making. Instead, they ran toward Jesus, leaving others to quibble about where the line between “do” and “don’t” might be for them. If there was ever a question whether they should or shouldn’t do something, they didn’t, and that made me feel safe.
As I grew up and became an adult, it did even more for me. Just as the early Christians had Paul’s example to follow when first learning how to walk with Jesus, I had the example of my parents. Now, I’m not saying they were perfect parents or that their marriage was perfect. That would be a lie. They made mistakes, just as any human trying to live a divine life will, but their hearts never left their first love. And they never gave up.
Likewise, I was an imperfect child and an even more imperfect teenager, making more mistakes born of curiosity about how “the other half” lived than anything else. However, God’s Word tells us that if you train up a child in the way he should go, when he is old, he will not depart from it. It doesn’t say that he will never stray, just that at some point, he will return to stay. That was certainly true of my life, and it was much easier for me to return and stay than it was for those whose parents had claimed devotion to Jesus and then lived something else at home. They still had to determine what was true and discern right from wrong for themselves before they were able to find rest. All I had to do was match my parents’ steps.