Friday, May 10, 2013
Prayers & A Papa's Job
When Cava first got here, at dinnertime, he would immediately start eating. We would tell him that we don't eat first but that we pray a blessing over our food and then we eat. Still, night after night, Cava would want to start wolfing down his dinner and we would say, "Blessing." He would give a heavy sigh of frustration.
Over time, he began to wait until we were all seated around the table and after one of us would pray before he would start eating. Then, recently, I was about to say the blessing when Cava stopped me with, "No. Me say blessing." I was thrilled! His blessing was simple, "Lord, bless the food. Amen." but Cava was the one to initiate praying.
Very rarely have we heard him pray. Once, at bedtime, he said a sing-song prayer in Ukrainian that was much like a child saying, "God is great" or "Now I lay me." Later, when we had Yulia ask him what he prayed that night, Cava got defensive and said he didn't pray. We thought that maybe, for him, this was a private and personal thing and that he was offended that we had mentioned it to her.
He used to cross himself every time before we would play Candyland.
One day, on the way home from school, I asked him, "Cava did they teach you about God at the boarding school in Ukraine?"
"What about Jesus?"
"But there was a small church on the property. Didn't you ever go to that?"
So we are unsure of just what Cava's been taught or not taught about God.
At night, we have been reading The Jesus Storybook Bible to him starting with the story of creation. After I read it to him, I told him, "Cava, God created you, too. And God loves you. God created you for us, so that you could be a part of our family." He liked hearing this.
It was this same week that Danelle and I had finished praying over Cava before he went to bed that he prayed for the first time.
"Lord, Thank you for my puzzles. Thank you for baseball. Thank you for Frisbee. Thank you for Ms. W. Thank you for Ms. Scarborough. Thank you for Bofan. Thank you for Levi. Thank you for my fish, Shark and Nemo. Thank you for chocolate ice cream. Amen."
This simple prayer meant more to me than any of the prayers of the Saints because it was my son's first prayer from his heart.
I'm finding that through teaching Cava about God and about Jesus, I am having to think about how to speak about what I believe in a manner simple enough for an 8 year old boy who speaks some English, but understands more, to understand. I've written before that he is, in many ways, like a toddler, and like a toddler, he likes to ask, "Why?" This is no different when I talk to him about God. It can be a challenge, but as I did with Benjamin, I never dismiss his questions. Instead, I think deeply about what he's asking and, if I don't know the answer, I tell him I don't know. But I do take very seriously his spiritual education.
On Sunday, we are having Cava dedicated. All this means is that we, as his parents, are standing before the church to say that we are going to raise him to know the Lord. To do this, we had to take a class and one of the things the children's pastor asked all of us to do was write down three things we want our child(ren) to be when they leave our home. Instantly, I jotted mine down:
1. To be young men after God's own heart.
2. Young men of strong moral character.
That's why I take teaching them about God's loving us so much that He gave His only Son to be my top priority as a parent.
As Proverbs 1:8 says, "Listen, my son, to your father's instruction and do not forsake your mother's teaching."
One night, Cava was angry with me and he didn't want to say prayers before he went to sleep. He was very defiant about it and kept putting his hands over his ears when we were praying and started making noises to drown us out. Mishandling the situation, I got upset with him, which only made him angrier and more defiant.
The next morning, on the way to school, he got irritated that we were listening to our usual Christian station. Along with contemporary Christian music, they have small teachings interspersed between them (such as a Beth Moore moment). Cava kept telling me, "I don't want to hear this." At one point, he even threw his sunglasses. Putting his hands over his ears, he declared, "I don't want to hear church! I don't like church!"
When we got home, I sat him down on the couch. "What's wrong Cava? Why did you act like that in the car?"
Cava wouldn't look at me.
"We listen to that station every morning and yet this morning you got angry about it. Why?"
He wouldn't answer.
"Cava, are you mad about something?" I knew that all of this was residual anger at me, so I asked, "Are you mad at me?"
"Because I got upset that you didn't want to pray. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have gotten upset with you and I'm sorry. You don't have to pray if you don't want to, but do you know why Mommy and I pray?"
He shook his head, "No."
"To thank God for what He's blessed us with, especially you. We thank God that He loves us so much that He gave us you and that you are a part of our family."
That night, he said his prayers and one of the first things he thanked God for was "Mommy and Papa coming to Ukraine for me." Yes, a tear ran down my cheeks.
Teaching him about God, His love, and of Jesus is going to be a lifelong process. It will be a lesson taught not only through words, but through living my faith out before Cava.
Leading by example.
I am very aware that both of my sons watch what I say and do very, very closely. (An example being that Cava now gets frustrated with slow drivers - another way that God is teaching me about being patient).
Like them, there will be times when I stumble, but when I do, I confess and seek forgiveness.
I not only talk to them about my faith, but listen to their questions and thoughts on the matter.
I pray for them, over them, and with them.
I also find opportunities to teach them, such as when Cava gets excited about a new flower that's bloomed. Through the beauty of that flower I can teach my son about a God who loves us enough to provide such beauty in His creation.
Just like with Benjamin, the prayer I long to hear most from Cava's lips will be the one where he gives his heart to Christ and accepts him as his Lord and Savior. That for me is my role as a parent. My job is to point them to their true Father.
Proverbs 22:6 tells us, "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it."
That's why, every night, I go into each of my son's room, while they are sleeping, and pray over them. I give them both to God because they are both His more than they are mine. God has a bigger plan for them than I could ever dream or imagine and I just have to entrust them to Him. I cannot wait to see what He has in store for them and where He will lead them. All I know that is if both Benjamin and Cava are following His lead, then I have done my job.