Her soul shone through her big blues, eyebrow cocked at a degree set for only the greatest concern. “But mama,” her anxious about to erupt into a public display of sad tears voice stammered during the worship service, “I asked Jesus to forgive me.”
The communion trays were beginning to circulate during our Good Friday service. I thought we had prepared for this moment already. After attending the Christmas Eve service, I was primed to our kids intrigue and desire centering abound communion. I’ll never forget sitting in the front row during that service, feeling self-conscious as I allowed our kids, then six and three, to take communion. My eyes kept looking to our pastor wondering if he would think we were doing something inappropriate. I wondered if he would give a subtle teaching to the congregation the following Sunday regarding children and communion, but that was my own insecurity manifesting itself.
While my parents weren’t religious lunatics and the non-denominational church we attended not ritualistic, the sacred act of communion was instilled with a bit of fear. Not that I feared God would smite someone taking the sacraments because they were not a believer or even if they were still sinning believers, but in a church with only a few “religious acts”, the holiness of this partaking in the Lord’s supper left a lasting impression on my young heart.
The Christmas Eve experience led to multiple family conversations about what communion is, who it is for and why we share the Lord’s Supper. I thought we were prepared for the Easter service. Our son was set to take communion, but at the moment of our daughter’s protest, I realized we hadn’t gone full circle with her. Fortunately, God is good and leads clearly when we listen carefully.
As I listened to my daughter, my people pleasing nature was paused and I got a heart nudge to let her participate. All four years of her sat nestled on my lap with the first sacrament, the body, grasped in our fingers. I whispered and contemplated with our kids what the holes in the cracker represent. Then it occurred to me, I was reflecting deeper by sharing this experience with our kids.
“Are we going to drink real blood?” our daughter questioned curiously, though we’ve talked about this before. “No” I smiled both adamant and relieved. We held the little cups contemplating the blood holy Jesus was willing to pour out for you, me and all people willing to believe and in that moment, God’s love became even more personal.
Reflecting as we sang between the elements my heart circled around children and communion. Who is to say a person is ready or not to participate? When we might tell kids to wait until they are old enough to fully understand, maybe we need to simply say, “Go ahead little believer.” After all, when I talk with an elderly believer who has spent twice as long following God, my experience and knowledge pale in comparison, but we both share the same joy of our salvation.
Though our children have fewer years under their belts, they know the same God you and I know and experience the same leading from the Holy Spirit. Denying them the moment to commune when God is leading them subtly suggests they cannot trust that leading and thwarts the still small voice developing within their hearts we pray they will listen to. The same Jesus who died for you and me spoke clearly to his disciples about children:
“Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them. 14 Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” 15 When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.” Matthew 19:13-14
“He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. 3 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.” Matthew 18:2-5
On a day contemplating the sorrow of Christ’s crucifixion, the budding faith-filled conviction of my daughter was a reminder of the reach of his sacrifice. Transcending color, gender, geography and age, the only barrier between a person and God is a willingness to believe. His desire for relationships with his created beings is so strong he made a path so simple, even a four year old soul can understand and receive.
Untainted by bad experiences, rules and laws the faith of a child accepts the simple truth of salvation and walks away joy filled. Perhaps you were taught to second guess that still small voice and it has grown dim. Will you spend this day praying for the simple faith of child and received the joy of Christ’s sacrifice?
End Note: Because our church doesn’t take communion more than once a month during an evening service we cannot regularly attend my husband and I hadn’t discussed our convictions regarding kids and communion. Sadly, it simply wasn’t something that needed immediate attention, something we thought we could figure out later. I am well aware many liturgical churches practice communion weekly and children participate, but I am constantly reminded my non-denominational protestant experiences are often shared broadly. Either way, I hope these thoughts will lead you closer to the Savior.