I'll probably never know exactly what was going on in Alex's heart and mind that day in the grocery store when my son screamed, "JEEEEEEEEEEEE-SUS! COME INTO MY HEART!" and then a bit later said a prayer for my toe cramps — quite a mixture of faith expressed for the grocery store. But, I do know that he's been chock-full-o-curiosity ever since. So we've spent the last few weeks talking through all sorts of four year-old questions about God. And while part of me thinks that four is too young for a child to have any real grasp of sin and sacrifice and atonement and resurrection, a much bigger part of me knows that there is no faith as simple and profound as the faith of a child.

I also know that this is the time to plant those seeds of faith and then water them as much as we possibly can so that the little man's roots will grow deep, so that one day he will be able, as Paul wrote, "to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that [he] may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God" (Ephesians 3:18-19 paraphrased).

So we answer Alex's questions. We talk about God. We talk about the joys of knowing Him, of serving Him, of trusting Him. We pray that he sees evidence of those joys as he watches his mama and daddy work out their faith every single day.

And it has been, quite simply, one of the sweetest times of my whole life.

Before Alex was born, I imagined that this child whose face I had not yet seen would sit with me at a desk while I carefully read passages of Scripture aloud. Everything would be Perfectly Orderly; I would Teach With Care while my child Listened Attentively. Then we would clasp our hands together and begin the walk toward faith with lockstep precision, only stopping long enough for him to surrender to whatever calling God might have on his life.

Because I wasn't idealistic or anything.

But the reality, as anybody with a little one knows, is absolutely nothing like that. The daily process of teaching and leading a precious little heart is about as methodical as herding a room full of cats. And you know what else? It is hard. On every single level. So much of parenting uncovers our own imperfections, and we are constantly being humbled, broken and refined in our own lives while we try to nurture the little lives that have been entrusted to us. Did I mention that it's hard?

There are days when I'm really disappointed in myself as a mother; I get so tired of struggling to balance the things I need to do with the things I want to do, and as a result of that I am confronted with the reality of my selfishness over and over again. It's a mighty good thing indeed that I don't have to parent in my own strength, because I'll tell you right now that I couldn't do it. I wouldn't last a day.

But the rewards of parenting? They really are huge. They're immeasurable. They're eternal. And the longer I'm a mama, the more I find that the most teachable moments in terms of faith don't require much organization or planning on my part. They don't necessarily happen while we're sitting in a church service or when we're Reviewing Memory Verses With Great Intention, though certainly I believe that God uses those things.

They're immeasurable.
For me the most breathtaking moments — the times when David and I are both able to share our faith with the most sincerity and transparency — are when Alex picks up a maple leaf from the ground and then says, with wonder, "GOD MADE THIS!" Or when he runs into the house after being outside and says, "Mama! I missed you! And I talked to Jesus while I played!" Or when he's sick with a stomach virus and says, through his tears, "Mama? Will you always take care of me? Will God always take care of me?"

Or even when he puts his hand on my shoulder in the middle of a crowded grocery store and prays for my toe cramps while we stand next to six different brands of sour cream.

In many ways motherhood is absolutely nothing like I imagined, but so much more than I expected. And for me, right now, the greatest joy is sharing the Greatest Joy with a four year-old who may get a little cloudy on the theological details — but whose heart is wide open.

I cannot imagine any greater privilege.