Have you ever played, “Simon Says” with your children? I remember playing this game with my guys when they were little. There is something exhilarating about tuning your ears to listen with intention and then trying to follow only what Simon Says. Even though it was just a game, I have sometimes thought to myself over the years how easy parenting would be if it were just a big fun game of, “Simon Says”! I mean how simple would it be if we could just tell our children what to do, when to do, how to do, what to think, how to feel, how to process, how to give, how to forgive, how to receive, how to ask for forgiveness, how to extend love when anger nips at your heals….ahhhhh, soooo much! There have been many days in my 26+ years of parenting that I just wish I could take the knowledge and wisdom I have gained through life’s highs and lows and strategically place them inside the hearts of my sons like a priceless gift!
Such was the case the other day when I awakened at 4:45 am to a series of texts from one of my guys… He had received some shocking news that tempted his emotions to go reeling as if being tossed about by the waves of a storm-riddled sea…The news he received came on the heels of two other hard moments that unfolded just a few days prior.
Sidebar: The day before these texts I had JUST confessed to a friend how I have felt “under siege” as of late…how circumstances from all angles were tempting me not to take Jesus, The Word, at His Word. I went on to share how the one thing that seems to cause my own heart to reel is when my sons go through difficult circumstances…I had JUST confessed that the day before I received those texts from my sweet son…(This is another topic for another day, but it has me wondering the power of what I confessed into open air…that I possibly gave artillery to the enemy simply by confessing an area of weakness / temptation out loud?! Hmmmmm.....)
Anyway, as I read through the texts from my son, I had that, "Simon Says" moment…the moment when I wished that I could steady his heart FOR him with MY faith…wished that I could say, “Son, Simon Says, strengthen your heart! Son, Simon Says be of good courage because we serve a God of miracles! => A God who brings dead things to life! => A God who creates something out of nothing! Son, Simon Says...no better yet, JESUS says, “Peace. Be still.” Oh, son, let Him still your heart…when enemy assault is strong, when he whispers sweet nothings that tempt you to shake in your shoes, stand firm therefore on the steadfast Rock of our Savior!”
I continued to ponder Simon Says as I made my way to the gym. I hopped on the treadmill and turned on my YouTube app. A song began to that I had never heard before and boy did it catch my attention. I have it playing now as I type... As I listened to the lyrics, I suddenly felt my throat begin to close and tears begin to drop down my cheeks on my race to nowhere…The timing of the counsel and comfort of the Holy Spirit for some reason always takes my breath away…I immediately knew that I was to share the song with my son. (I think I have played the song 30+ times in the past week. It is well worth a watch – not just a listen – the drop at 1:08 is what made my eyes leak. )
Just for me
Many doors you've closed
Just for me
Sometimes you will say no
So I'll be
Tested in your fire
To purify my desires
So my blessings won't be
Just for me
So caught up in myself
I couldn't see
The world did not revolve around me
So storms are in your will
So I can feel what others feel
Their needs, if I could speak honestly
It don't feel good
But growing it never does
It don't seem fair
For you to call this love
But if necessary pain
Is the ingredient for change
Even when life may be bittersweet
Just for me…
I know in my heart that there have been so many times in my life, even right now, that the Lord does things, allows things, or withholds things, just for me. I have experienced closed doors and trial by fire so that He might purify my desires. Even though, “it don’t feel good”, I can look back and confirm that “growing never does” and yet sometimes, “necessary pain IS the ingredient for change”. Oh, how I wished I could encourage my son to trust the Lord even when, "it don’t feel good…"
When I arrived home from the gym, I opened my One Year Bible and found myself in an intimate moment between Jesus and Peter. Luke 22:31.34 tells how Jesus had just finished the Last Supper with the disciples and then he says this to Peter:
Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail.
Peter replies, “Lord, I am ready to go to prison with you and even to die with you!”
I LOVE this part – I read the first sentence as if Jesus was from the Eastern seaboard ;)
Jesus, said, “Peter, let me tell you something. Before the rooster crows tomorrow, you will deny three times that you even know me.”
Y’all there is SO much here!!! Did you notice that Jesus calls Peter, “Simon”? AND that He says it twice? “Simon, Simon…” I was so curious to know the meaning of the name Simon – I knew that Jesus had given Simon the new name, “Peter” and that it meant, “Rock”, but why did He suddenly call him, “Simon”?
Are you ready?! The name Simon literally means, “to hear”! In essence, he said, “Hear, hear…Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat”
Another sidebar is that we learn that Satan asked permission to sift them and that permission was granted! Did he ask permission from God the Father??? (Remember the lyrics, “It don’t feel good…it don’t seem fair…”)
THEN Jesus proclaims that He has pleaded in prayer for Simon that he might not falter in his faith! The Father allowed the sifting and the Son pleaded in prayer knowing what was to come! Jesus knew…he had full foreknowledge, so what did He do? He pleaded in prayer on behalf of Simon that his faith might not fail!
I am going to share one more tidbit that does not directly relate to this post, but I find it contextually fascinating enough to share….
Most of us know the rest of the story…Jesus is arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane…Peter follows at a distance as he is taken away. Peter then warms himself by the fire wondering what will happen to Jesus when suddenly a servant girl begins to stare at him intently and finally proclaims,
This man was one of Jesus’ followers!
Peter promptly denies the “accusation” saying, 'Woman, I don’t even know him!'
After that, another looks at him and proclaims, 'You must be one of them!'
“No man, I am not!” Peter retorted.
(btw, “retorted” means to make known one's thoughts! Yikes!)
Then about an hour later, yet another insists, “This man MUST be one of them because he is Galilean too!”
But Peter said, “Man, I don’t even know what you are talking about…” and IMMEDIATELY WHILE HE WAS STILL TALKING, the rooster crowed!
And AT THAT MOMENT, the Lord turned and looked at Peter.
Suddenly, the Lord’s words flashed through Peter’s mind,
‘Before the rooster crows…’
And Peter left the courtyard weeping bitterly.
So WHILE Peter was still denying Jesus for the third time, the rooster crows and WHILE the rooster crows, Jesus turned and looked at Peter! OH MY GRACIOUS! Did you catch that?! Jesus was within earshot and eyesight of Peter at the very moment Peter denied Him! When you look up the word, “looked”, it means, “locked in gaze with special interest love or concern…”
Jesus locked eyes with the man who was known as one of Jesus’ most zealous followers, the follower who had just forsaken him, and yet He, Simon’s Savior who was prepared to shed His blood for this forsaken follower, locked eyes with Simon, with a heart of compassion, love and concern. You see Jesus KNEW what was going to unfold. He could have played, “Jesus Says” and MADE Peter hear and follow, but He chose instead to, “plead in prayer for Simon, that his faith might not fail.”
Deep exhale….wow….speechless…wow…Oh, Jesus, that I might be like you as I shepherd my own sons…When I am tempted to anger, when I am tempted to offense, when I can SEE what is about to unfold and they, in their youth are not only blind, they also do not ask for input, let me plead in prayer FOR them that they might not falter in their faith! And Lord, give me eyes of compassion to listen without a solution because, Jesus, You are the only solution for each trouble we face…
Later that day, I connected with my son…asked him to watch the video of the song I heard during my morning workout. It ministered. Then we sat down and I shared the story of Peter. I shared how Satan had asked to sift the disciples, then shared the definition of sift – it means to prove by trial; to shake as in a sieve; an inward agitation to try one’s faith to very verge of overthrow! (Doesn’t that sound like a siege?!)
I asked him if I could pray…with eyes brimming with tears he said, “no thank you.” I pressed anyway…”Son, this is the best thing we could do right now - I am going to ask again but in a new way…would you be angry if I sat next to you and prayed on your behalf?” He pulled his sweatshirt above his face to cover the tears that began to fall and shook his head no…so I sat next to him and began to pray. And as I did, I recalled a verse I had read earlier in the week from Judges 2:23-24:
These are the nations that the Lord left in the land to test those Israelites who had not experienced the wars of Canaan.
He did this to teach warfare to generations of Israelites who had not experience in battle.
Parents…our sons and daughters WILL experience warfare this side of heaven and what a blessed opportunity for it to unfold while we still hold influence and can speak Truth into the circumstances they face. I LOVE that my sons still reach out to share their struggles even when it causes my heart to ache on their behalf. We as parents have ALL experienced warfare to some extent in our lives. We have all felt under siege or experienced a season of sifting. We have the opportunity to come alongside our sons and daughters to train them...to train means to be with. Its not just telling, it is being present with and through… Jesus was WITH Simon when he encouraged Simon, letting him know that he was warring on behalf of his zealous disciple THROUGH prayer!
And then Jesus was WITH Simon as he denied Jesus and even THROUGH that forsaken moment, Jesus was WITH him and looked upon him with love. We can do the same! When we are tempted to walk in, “Mama Says”, or Daddy Says”, what if we turned to the Word of God to see what JESUS says or what our FATHER in HEAVEN says and choose to speak His Word as a weapon of warfare?
THIS is training.
Training requires intention.
Training requires presence.
Training requires vision.
Training is simply another word for discipleship and as my friend Suzanne Phillips says, “The sacrifice of discipleship is time!”
Unlike the quip of this world, we actually don’t have all the time in the world (See Psalm 90:12). We only have a breath of 18ish years and then our sons and daughters launch. We can be “Simon” in their lives while they are littles, but what are we doing to prepare, equip and train them to have ears to hear and eyes to see the Holy Spirit telling them,’ This is the way, son / daughter, walk boldly in it!”???
This charge is heavy. It is weightier than any earthly responsibility I have ever carried. We have been granted the stewardship of the position of parent. Our children are not our own but have been placed in our home under our authority for this purpose: to prepare their hearts to know Who they can trust, to know who they are, and to know Whose so that they might create Kingdom impact in the specific sphere of culture wielding the facet of the Father that He sovereignly placed within them.
WOWZA! This is a long one and yet I sense to leave it as such….to lessen this post would be to lessen the message and the weight we carry as parents.
Oh Father God, lead us. Our children did not come with a handbook or manual, and even if they did I cannot say I would be inclined to consult a manual! What we do have access to, however, is our Creator God who created our sons and daughters in His image with purpose and for a purpose. Holy Spirit, would you show us how to train our sons and daughters to seek you as their, “Simon Says”? Give them eager hearts to follow you. Let them see their fathers and mothers seeking you first thing, making you the priority of their hearts and homes and woo them to follow in their parents’ footsteps. Father, when hard things come in our children’s lives, remind us that this is yet another incredible opportunity to train them in the ways of God more accurately! (Acts 18:26). Holy Spirit, remind us to plead just like Jesus did so that our children’s faith would not fail. Let our faith be steadfast and sure, locked onto The Rock, modeling what it means to have faith that doesn’t falter. We love you, Father. Teach us your Word so that your Word might become the Source and foundation of Truth that we guide and direct our children as we steward well this position as parent. Bless this next generation with the heart’s desire to hear what The Word says and the courage to take The Word at His Word! We pray this in Jesus name, the name above all other names, amen!
p.s. As I mentioned above, the song is well worth the watch - no tangibles as to why a watch verses a listen, other than two of my sons agreed with me that watching it ministered to them more than listening ever would have... ;)