When friends have babies I often pray that the newborn would never know a day in their life when they don't know that God is their loving Father in heaven. I have prayed that prayer many times. And not only for newborns. I continue to pray this for various children, including our own boys and our godchildren.
I have been reflecting on how I became a Christian lately. And I have heard my husband talk about his journey as a Christian a couple of times during the last week as well. We share quite similar stories. At one level there was a defining moment for me. It was 13th August 1987, about 4pm, sitting by the river. Ironically I skipped a lecture, the only lecture I EVER skipped at university*, to sit by the river to talk to God and give my life to Him. I remember it as clear as day.
Yet despite this very particular moment, I have always know God as my Father in heaven. I cannot remember a time when I did not acknowledge and love God. My parents didn't go to church but they did send my sister and I to Sunday School each week. And God in His providence always surrounded me with people who loved Him, even after the days of Sunday School - teachers, friends - there was always someone there asking a hard question, keeping me thinking, encouraging me along and as I now know, praying for me. As a child my relationship with God was vibrant. In my teenage years that relationship lost some of its vibrancy. But I never lost a sense of God. It was more a case of Him being in heaven and me being here in my life on earth. Distance...but I never turned away.
And as I have heard my husband say twice in the last week of his story, while I can pinpoint an exact moment when I put myself under God's authority, it is actually hard to discount the nearly twenty preceding years when God continued to be very real and it was only my (I now understand) sinful pride that kept me from fully apprehending what it means to be a child of God. I still had a relationship with God and He was very much at work in my life, even if I didn't fully grasp it.
I realised this week that during my first 20 years I lived the very prayer I pray for newborns. There has never been a day in my life that I didn't know that God is my loving Father in heaven. And for that I am deeply thankful. But it took 20 years, a handful of faithful people who prayed for me and kept badgering me and also a series of events that gradually eroded my confidence in the things in which I had previously placed my security to understand that that God is my loving Father in heaven and Jesus is my friend, Lord and Saviour. And I need both, not just the first.
So this week I am praying a better prayer for our boys and for our godchildren and for the various other children who are often found in my prayers, that they would never know a day when they don't know that God is their loving Father in heaven and that Jesus is their friend, Lord and Saviour. This seems to be a better prayer.
* I went on in that particular unit to fail a mid-semester test - the only assessment I ever failed at university - and barely scraped a pass for the subject - the only subject I ever came close to failing. Ah, Sociology of Education. It should have been so interesting...