“We have to miss Bible class for baseball practice or my son won’t get to play in the game.” That’s what the mom said. It was the first time I had heard someone attempt to defend her reasons for putting baseball before God. She just couldn’t see any other way. Either her son attends every practice or he doesn’t play. I was confused and a little intimidated because I had a 5 year old who was just beginning his baseball career. Just how tough were these coaches. These coaches of little boys’ baseball teams. I wanted my son to be successful, but I couldn’t imagine a baseball coach requiring us to decide between Bible class and baseball.
Imagine my surprise when I first had to tell a coach that we would not be attending any baseball practices or games on Wednesday night because we would be at Bible class and he said, “Okay.’ That was it. He didn’t try to change my mind. He didn’t threaten to bench my son. He just said, “Okay.” With 6 boys, I had this conversation with many coaches. Almost everyone of them said the same thing, “Okay.”
There was that one…the one who just didn’t get it. More about him later…
That was just the beginning. Through the years, many wonderful activities have required us to make that decision. Would we allow our son to go on the Boy Scout camping trip, or play in the orchestra concert, or go on an exciting trip with friends? Or would we insist he stay home and worship God?
Many friends and influential people in our boys’ lives have attempted to help us make the decision. We have been reassured that there would be a brief devotional held on Sunday morning before the day’s activities began on the camping trip. Our egos have been fed by telling us how important our son is or could be to the music ensemble that performs on Sunday. The itinerary for the amazing trip with friends has tugged at our heart strings as we realize what great fun our son would have if only we would allow him to miss worship just once.
“Just once. That’s all,” we’re told.
“How could it be a problem for your son to miss worship or Bible class just once?” we’re asked.
“The benefits of the activity are worth it,” they say.
Sometimes the temptation is just too much. I think it must be one reason God gave children two parents. If I were a single mom, I can see how it would be hard to stand firm. FOMO is a real thing. Fear of missing out…fear of my children missing out. Thankfully, my children have two parents. When one of us begins to weaken and give into the parental peer pressure, the other is there to stand firm.
It wasn’t just baseball. As my boys began to excel in music, they have had and continue to have opportunities to perform that involved Wednesday evening rehearsals and/or Sunday concerts. I’ve been a little surprised and disappointed that the music teachers/conductors are less understanding than the baseball coaches. There have been and continue to be wonderful opportunities for my boys to perform with some great ensembles but it regularly interferes with our regular worship services and Bible classes. It’s heart breaking to have to tell my son that he can’t participate in something he loves because he has a prior commitment, that he has priorities that need to be kept in order.
Just for a minute, let’s take a look at what happens if we give in. What happens if we allow our son to attend an event that is beneficial in so many ways but will require him to miss worship services or Bible class?
We’ve taught a lesson. Everything we do in life is a possible lesson taught and learned. When we speak, our tone of voice, our gestures, the words that come out of our mouth are all teaching someone how we really feel about the subject at hand. Where we go, how we dress, everything we do teaches those around us something, whether it is good or bad.
Let’s say that we decide to let one of our boys attend an orchestra rehearsal instead of worship service on Sunday evening. What have we taught our son? That we love music and want to encourage him to perform every chance he gets. Not a bad thing really but…we’ve also taught him that, even just this once, this rehearsal is more important at that moment than worshiping God. We may not say it. We may even say the opposite. We may tell him that we don’t want him to get the wrong idea or that we don’t want him to make it a habit but just this once, God takes a back seat.
What have we taught the musicians in the orchestra and the orchestra conductor? If they even knew that my son needed to be somewhere else or that he was choosing this rehearsal over being with the Christians worshiping God, they will have learned that our commitment to God is only so strong. We are willing to give it up occasionally, if the right activity comes along.
What have we taught the Christians who assembled to worship God? We have taught them that, while they are important to us and that meeting with them takes priority in our lives and that worshiping God is most important…usually…that today, we have chosen something else to take center stage. Playing notes on a page for the entertainment of others is more important than God, more important than them.
Is that really what we want to teach? We can do better. God tells us to put Him first. We need to do everything we can to do just that. Baseball is just a game played to entertain ourselves and others. Orchestra is just another opportunity to entertain others. Vacation is just taking a break from our regular responsibilities to do what? Entertain ourselves. All of these pursuits center around one thing…gratifying ourselves or others through entertainment. Is that really what we want to put above God?
So, what’s the big deal? Do I think God is that harsh that He would deny someone the right to follow his dream? It’s just one Bible class or just one worship service?
The big deal is that God comes first. He comes first in my life and I hope that I am teaching my boys that He should come first in their lives as well.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)
And what about those dreams? Doesn’t God care about our dreams? Check out what He thought of the rich young ruler’s dreams.
He asked Jesus, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?”
Jesus told him to sell what he has and give it to the poor. That’s quite a challenge. Sounds easy until someone with lots of wealth realizes how his life will change if he doesn’t have any material possessions. The rich young ruler was not willing to go that far to please Jesus.
The last we hear about the rich young ruler is when he “went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” (Matthew 19:16-22)
He just couldn’t put God first.
What about that one. That coach that just didn’t get it? The only coach the entire time our boys played baseball that gave us a hard time about missing his practices and/or games? When he was told and after he realized we were serious that our son would not be playing or practicing during our worship services, his wife stepped in. She sat her chair next to me at a practice one day and said, “You know, your son made a commitment when he signed up for baseball. You need to teach him how important commitment is.”
Now, I understand commitment. That’s what this whole piece I’m writing is about. I know what she was trying to say. Yes, a team needs to be able to depend on everyone. Yes, my son needs to understand what he has signed up for. What she didn’t realize is that we had been teaching our son about commitment from the day he was born. We knew that he would have to make difficult decisions about what was most important in life. By participating in activities and learning to say “no” when necessary, we were teaching him that commitment to God always comes first. Commitment to activities such as ball games are important but not as important as God. We wanted him to gain the confidence to say “no” when he got older and needed to stand up for his commitment to God even in the face of losing a job or being passed over for a promotion or missing out on a scholarship or whatever may come up in his life.
The great thing about all this is that we are seeing our grown sons making the right decisions. They are choosing careers that allow them to worship God freely. They are saying “no” to activities that will hinder their commitment to God. They are putting God first.
What a blessing it is to be able to say:
“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.” 3 John 4