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She Asked Jesus in her Heart!


Every evening my 2-year-old has been asking me to read a little paper back illustrated version of the Gospel that was given to us by our church in Louisiana for our first Christmas as parents. We have multiple children's versions of the Gospel, and this one is not my favorite of them all, but we want them to hear God's word as many times and in as many different ways as possible, so this one remains in the girls' bookcase. Our eldest ("4-and-a-half, almost 5" she will tell you) never chooses this Jesus story--I think mostly because it shows a picture of the crown of thorns up close and says how it made Him bleed. She is very sensitive, and doesn't like to think of Jesus hurting. Usually she is taking her pre-bedtime trip to the potty when her sister brings the book for me to read. But on Wed. Aug. 11, she unusually finished quickly and plopped herself on the couch beside me and said, "Can I listen too?"
"Of course," I answered.
When we reached the page about "sin", it gave the example of "hitting other boys and girls". This was something she had been doing a lot lately to her younger sister. She received consequences about 5 times a day, for about 2 weeks straight for this exact behavior. I could tell when I read that phrase, she was struck. At the end of the book, it has an invitation for the child to receive Jesus personally by asking, "Would you like to ask Jesus in your heart?" Little sister always enthusiastically says, "YESS!!!" closes the book, and jumps off the couch to get a toy without a second thought. But this night, Big Sister remained seated, deep in thought.
"I'd like to ask Jesus in my heart," she said. {Something I'd heard from her before many times, but each time upon talking about it, she did not fully grasp the significance of the decision.}
Not knowing if anything had changed in her comprehension, I replied, "Ok, when you're ready..."
"But I'm ready now. Can we do it together?"
I said, "Ok, but let's make sure you understand it all. Let's start back at the beginning. You know that God loves you." She nodded at my statement. I didn't even pose it as a question because I knew that she knew since she has talked about it a lot. "You know that you are sinful, right? And what does that mean?"
"I KNOW I'm not perfect, because sometimes I hit my little sister," she said seriously.
At this point, I started to get a little nervous/excited. Excited because I could tell she had been struck with conviction, nervous because I am quite confident in leading an 18-year-old college student through this process (I have the Bible verses and the commentary memorized), but I knew that I couldn't say the phrase "active rebellion or passive indifference" to my 4-yr-old, so I was a little uncertain of what to ask next. I said a little prayer for wisdom. {I had also prayed earlier in the day that God would continue to remove pride from my life--another prayer He was answering in this moment, as I fumbled to the last page of the book to see if it had any guidance on leading kids through this discussion. It did! It had 4 points! Here we go:}
"Do you remember what happened to Adam and Eve in the garden?" She relayed the story, and we focused on the main consequence. Thanks to us reading The Jesus Storybook Bible night after night, she knew that the main consequence was not the fig-leaf clothing, but the separation from God. I continued reading from the paperback: "Satan made the problem, Jesus is the solution."
Then, just as I would read to an adult, I read Romans 6:23 "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." We discussed a little about earning/deserving a punishment and she knew that Jesus took the punishment when He died on the cross. I asked her, "And did He stay dead?"
"No, God raised Him from the dead and the BIG stone was rolled back."
"Where does He live now?"
"In Heaven."
"And where else?"
"In Mommy and Daddy's heart."
"How did He get in our hearts?"
"You asked Him in. You know, you don't have to be a grown-up to ask Him in your heart," she said matter-of-factly.
"You're right. So what does it mean to ask Jesus in your heart?" We have gotten to this question in conversation before, and each time at this point she would answer, "I don't know," and I would prod a little and discover that she didn't understand. But this time she said, "It means that He would come live in my heart and I would go to Heaven." We read Romans 10:9--the same verse that convicted my little heart at age 7 "If you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved."
I said, "If you want to ask Jesus in your heart, you can do it right now by praying. Remember, praying is just talking to God, your words don't have to be perfect, just say what you're thinking."
She said, "Can we do it together?"
"Sure. You listen to these words and see if this is what you want to say {The paperback did not have a sample prayer. I don't remember exactly the words I said, but here is the jist}: "Dear God, I know you love me. Thank you for sending your Son Jesus to die on the cross. I know I am not perfect. Thank you that you took the punishment for me. I want you to come into my heart and be the Lord of my life. In Jesus name, Amen." I asked, "Is that what you want to say?" She nodded. "Ok, I'll say it one more time, and this time, you think those words to God while I say them." When we finished, she said, "Amen. Is He in there now?"
"If you meant what you prayed, then Yes."
She jumped up and down, "I can't wait to tell Daddy! And can I tell my friend M------ too? Oh, and I also want to tell Daddy that I brushed my teeth with big-girl toothpaste for the first time and I didn't swallow!"
When Karl walked in, she was getting ready for bed, so I had a moment to relay our conversation to him. I said, "I think she just asked Jesus in her heart." I was still a little uneasy though--I asked, "She is not even 5. How can we be sure? I have special presents saved for when she makes this decision, but what if we celebrate now and give the gifts, and then we find out when she's 12 that it didn't really happen?" He silently pondered for a minute--he was the one who was skeptical of her ability to comprehend previously when we had conversations with her, but this time he said, "If an 18-yr-old had said those words and prayed that prayer, we would say, 'That person will be in Heaven. I think years of ministry has made us cynical. I think you should pull out the gifts. Let's make a big deal out of it. We'll know by the fruit in her life, and if it turns out she just said the words and makes a decision later on, we'll take it as it comes. I don't think we can start off her spiritual journey by doubting her." My husband is so wise. His words completely reassured me. I said, "You're right. And we've been praying every night since before she was born that she 'would come to know Christ at an early age'. It makes sense to not doubt it."
I rummaged through my closet to find the cross necklace and children's devotional Bible that I had been saving. I wrote her name, date, and occasion in the front. When she was ready for bed, she ran to Karl and said, "Daddy! I didn't swallow the big-girl toothpaste, and I asked Jesus in my heart!" We laughed, and celebrated, and presented her with the presents to mark the special occasion. She was grinning ear to ear. (See her pictured in her favorite cherry nightgown, wearing the James Avery cross necklace that Karl gave me while we were dating, and holding her new book.)
Since then, she and I read a devotional together while her siblings nap in the afternoon. It has been fun to talk about the "fruits of the Spirit" now accessible to her since Jesus lives in her heart. She likes this especially since she has memorized Galatians 5:22-23 "The fruits of the spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" from her Beary Patch Bears Books. Since then, she has stopped hitting her sister. She has apologized for unkind things without being prompted. And everyday we see more and more evidence of God living in her little heart.

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