My husband noticed that my twelve year old son was involved in a minor commotion on the other side of the sanctuary, before whispering to me that something was going down. What I at first thought was an invitation for a scolding, turned out to be a glimpse of a precious blessing.
We attend a large church which has a very large youth group, packed with kids ages 7th-12th grades. All of the youth sit together every Sunnday in one section of the sanctuary which happens to be on the opposite side from where my husband and I have always claimed our pews.
Since the service had just begun and the congregation was still standing and singing praise songs, I excused myself from the pew, walked to other side of the sanctuary, and motioned for my son to follow me out into the lobby, so we could discuss why an altercation was occurring in the church pew.
I could tell how hard he was trying to hold back his tears and be a little man about the whole thing, so I knew it was time to listen, and not fuss. Apparently a friend wanted to sit in the spot where he and another friend were sitting, and so a typical-middle-school-boy-scuffle ensued. His tears were in part due to receiving an elbow in the eye, but also due to hurt pride, and anger.
We talked it out for a few minutes as I placed a wet cloth on his eye. Then despite my motherly insistence that he come snuggle beside me for the remainder of the service, he insisted on returning to his regular seat with the rest of the youth, so we parted ways and went back into the sanctuary.
The sermon that day was about anger. Our pastor shared great insight into the reasons we get angry, and when it is, and is not, okay to feel anger. But most importantly, he shared the right ways that we should respond to our anger when it happens, according to God’s Word.
He shared many scriptures and stories to support God’s view on anger, and just to name a few (NLT):
Proverbs 12:16 A fool is quick-tempered, but a wise person stays calm when insulted.
Proverbs 25:28 Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.
Proverbs 28:13 Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.
The pastor ended his sermon and closed in prayer. Soft music began to play, as the congregation was extended an invitation to come to the altar if they felt God’s nudging to do so.
Within seconds, I noticed that a young man had walked to the altar, bent down on his knees, buried his face in his arms, and proceeded to pray. He looked familar, but seemed bigger than my son…. although he was wearing the same shirt. And the same pants. And in fact, the same shoes. Could it be?
This young man kneeling at the altar, WAS my son.
My heart nearly leapt out of my chest. I felt the sting of warm tears bursting into my eyes as they were fixated on my precious little man, on bended knee before God.
For the very first time, I was seeing concrete evidence that he was no longer just my little man, but that he was becoming a young man in Christ. His boldness serving as reassurance to my heart, that he not only knew Jesus, he had felt His Presence. His heart had been moved, and he had moved straight to the altar.
After church, I gave him a big hug and told him how happy it made me to see him kneeling at the altar and praying, and how proud I was of him. When I asked what he was praying about, he gave a simple answer, yet it showed the innocent faith of a child, that as adults, we can only hope to imminate.
“Mom, I listened to the pastor talk about anger, and I felt bad for getting upset at my friend. So I asked him to forgive me, and to help me control my temper.”
I was truly at a loss for words, for three reasons:
Number 1: He was actually paying attention to the sermon!
Number 2: His heart was hurting, and he was listening for God.
Number 3: When God spoke to his heart, scriptures resounding in his mind, he felt compelled to move.
Three simple steps that put this journey of faith, that we so often view as difficult and confusing, into a simple, child-like perspective – pay attention to God’s voice, listen when He speaks, and move when He calls.
I may not have physical altercations with other people, as little boys often do, but I do have emotional and spiritual altercations every day as I face the trials, demands, temptations and frustrations that life brings.
My son’s boldness to admit his need for forgiveness and strength, and to actually walk down to the altar and pray in front of hundreds of people, has prompted me to view my “altercations” in a new light this week.
Instead of letting my “altercations” make me feel down and discouraged, I choose to rise up and be encouraged, by laying them at the foot of the cross, and allowing God to mend my heart.
With the faith of a child, we too can allow our “altercations” to lead us to the altar.