“Mommy,” he says, stopping me just as I cross the threshold of his dark bedroom, “is it okay sometimes if I go right to sleep without praying first? Because sometimes I just feel too sleepy to pray before bed.”
I step from the bright hallway back into Noah’s dim bedroom. “Of course it’s okay,” I whisper. “Nothing or no one says you have to pray at a certain time of day. God knows when you’re sleepy, and he cares about you and wants you to rest when you need to. Go to sleep, honey, and don’t worry. You can save your prayers for tomorrow.”
I step into the hallway again, but then turn back to face the dark shape under the navy-blue comforter. “Plus, Noah, God knows your heart,” I remind him. “God already knows the prayers of your heart. You don’t even need to think them or say them out loud. ”
“Okay, good,” he says. “Because I’m just so sleepy.”
Oh, Noah. He’s so much like me. A rule-follower. A pleaser. He wants to do everything right, make everyone happy. Including God.
Isn’t there a little bit of this in all of us? Go to church, volunteer at the soup kitchen, bake cookies for the neighbor, sing the hymns, bow our heads, pray because we feel like we should, even when we can’t keep our eyes open. Obligations, responsibilities, good deeds — all done in the good name of the Lord.
I love how Paul tough-talks with the Galatians about this. Because honestly? I need the tough-talk sometimes.
“How foolish can you be? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human efforts? Have you experienced so much for nothing? Surely it was not in vain, was it?” (Galatians 3:3-4)
Here’s the deal, here’s what I realized when I stood in the darkened doorway of my son’s bedroom. Here’s what Paul was trying to pound into those Galatians’ (and my) thick heads:
God loves us. Period. Not because we follow the rules. Not because we serve the poor or love our neighbor or pray well or pray every single night before bed. But just because.
Nothing is required of us in order to bask in that love.
No sign-on-the-dotted line.
No strings attached.
No red tape.
Isn’t that the craziest, most mind-boggling, most over-the-top notion you’ve ever heard?
Isn’t that the purest, most generous, most gracious, most life-changing gift you have ever received?
That’s love, all wrapped up in grace.
“For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26).
Like Noah, do you ever find yourself trying to please God? How might you remind yourself of God’s grace?
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