I used to sing lullabies, and every night Marilee still hears “Close Your Eyes” or “Sleep My Child” when she goes to bed. Penny and William have graduated, of their own doing, and now they want me to sing “church songs.” It started at Christmas, when we went through three months of singing “Hark the Herald,” “Joy to the World,” and “Silent Night.” Somehow we moved from their to “plain church songs.”
Any song that has to do with Jesus fits the bill, from contemporary worship to ancient hymn to liturgical chant. I go from “Holy, Holy ,Holy” to “Shout to the Lord” to “Be Thou My Vision.” William usually asks questions along the way: “What grace mean, Mom?” Or, “can you sing the one about being lost?” (by which he means “Amazing Grace”). Penny works hard to memorize the words and I will often overhear her murmuring lines as she looks out the window or we go for a walk, everything from “dip your heart in the stream of life” to “merciful and mighty.” Her favorite song is “He Knows My Name,” a simple song about Gods knowledge and love for us. She knows that one by heart, and I always smile when I hear her singing: “before even time began, my life was in His hand.” William’s favorite is “Shelter,” about God’s faithful protection of us, generation by generation.
The snippets of theology sung or questioned by my children don’t convince me that they have “accepted Jesus into their hearts,” or that they will grow up without doubts or that they will keep going to church all their lives. But it does give me hope that the words are leaving an imprint on their hearts.
They may very well walk away, whether as teenagers or adults, from this childhood faith we are trying to pass along. My goal is not to dictate what they believe or to think that if we do it right they will conform to our desires. I just want to lay out a net for them, in hopes that later in life, when they discover suffering or betrayal or heartache, they will have a safe place to fall. When they find themselves in need, when they find themselves in pain, when they feel that their life is falling part, I pray that they will land in the arms of a God who has and does and will love them. Who is their shelter. Who knows their name.