Sometimes, when the kids were little (usually after I had blown it and lost my temper with them again), I would slump over in prayer and say, “God! I am doing such a terrible job! These kids are never going to want to follow you.”

The implicit message of that prayer was, “I must compel my kids to love God; This is my work, and I’m doing a terrible job of it.”

In actuality, though, it’s God’s work.

Yes, I’m the one who gets to tell my kids the story of God, and invite them to be part of it. I tell my kids the bad news of their sin, and the good news of Jesus taking their punishment on the cross and raising to life. But God is the one who opens my kids’ eyes–so that they see  just how bad, and just how good, this news really is.

By the time I was sharing the Gospel with our youngest child, I had learned a thing or two. At that point, my oldest was starting to question whether her prayer of salvation at age 4 had been a result of God’s work in her heart–or mine. I had talked to her forcefully about heaven and hell, and had offered Jesus as an escape from her sin. But I’m not sure I really gave her a chance to say no to the Gospel. So did she really say yes? She had to work through this question for many years.

So as I talked to my youngest son, Cade, about Jesus, I determined that I would not ask any “leading questions”. I never said, “Do you want to pray and ask Jesus to be your Savior?” I just kept telling him the bad news/good news and waiting.

Oh, it was hard! I prayed for him as if he was a 90 year old man on his deathbed. I thought he would never  come to Christ! His sin was so apparent, and his heart seemed so hard.

But then, the light of the Gospel broke through.

It was on the least likely night. I had been engrossed in a project, dinner was late, and everyone was grumpy (mostly me). After dinner, Ken said, “I don’t think it’s a good night to finish our book on salvation.” I said, “Why not? We’ve just displayed how desperately we need it!”

So we did our lesson and afterward, Cade said, “I think tonight would be a good night to ask Jesus to be my Savior. I know that I have a black heart and it’s just filling up with more and more sin. So I want to ask Jesus to give me a new heart.”

I was ecstatic! I asked if he wanted us to pray with him, and he said, “No. I want you and Daddy to go in the office and shut the door and talk really loud so you can’t hear me while I’m talking to the Lord Jesus.”

So we did! We went in the office and prayed for our boy, while he asked Jesus for a new heart.

I was curious about the imagery of the black heart. Cade had been talking a lot about his “black heart”, and I figured he hadn’t been reading Romans (…’their foolish hearts were darkened’–Rom. 1:21). But when I asked who had talked to him about his “black heart” he just shrugged.

The mystery was solved the next morning. Cade’s Sunday School teacher, Mrs. Gavette, told me had announced, “I have something important to tell the class.” He had pointed to the little figure on the white board with the black heart, and explained that just last night he, too, had been given a new heart!

The black heart! It was the lessons at church which had penetrated my boy’s heart and had stuck in his mind.

I heard God quietly saying to me, “See? This is my work, not yours. I have ways that you don’t even know of to convict, enlighten, and shape hearts and minds. I am in the business of collecting black, sin-filled hearts, and giving new life. That’s not something you can do–even for your kids.”

The cure for blackened hearts isn’t (thank goodness!) a perfect lesson or a perfect home or a perfect mom. It’s Jesus! Aren’t you glad?

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