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Shepherds| February 21, 2021

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Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. Amen.

            I know there are many variations of that short prayer, but this is what my mom and dad taught me to say each night before I went to sleep.

            We weren’t an overly religious family. Probably pretty typical for the early 1960’s. My parents had been raised going to church. I think it was the thing to do in the 1940’s and 1950’s, but we didn’t go as regularly as my grandparents did.

            But I remember very well lying in bed at night after saying that prayer aloud with my brother, (yes, we shared a bed. In the 1960’s that was common too! Not every child had their own bedroom!), thinking about the words of that prayer. That simple prayer instilled in me the knowledge that death might come, even for a child. And it might come at night when I couldn’t do anything about it!

            Along with the knowledge that death could come, was the knowledge that the Lord had something to do with what happened after. He could take my soul. And since I was taught to pray that he would take my soul, that implied that he might not take my soul. And the only other option to the Lord taking my soul was that the Devil would take my soul. And even though I didn’t grow up going to Sunday School, I knew that wasn’t a good thing. I had heard some sermons about Hell, and my parents had told me about it. I knew it wasn’t a place I wanted to go.

            That knowledge, that Hell exists and that where I go will be determined by my actions, kept me out of a lot of trouble as a child. (No, it didn’t keep me out of all trouble. I always tell people I wasn’t born a preacher. I had my share of wildness too.) But from a young age I knew there would be consequences for my actions. Serious consequences.

            Yes, I went through those teen years when I didn’t worry so much about the consequences, but they were always in the back of my mind. And that did keep me from doing some really bad things. That short little prayer learned as a child has worked on my conscience all my life. And as I’ve grown and studied more, I have become more convinced that God is real and that Heaven and Hell both do exist. I am convinced that we will face the consequences of our actions and the choices we have made.

            Unfortunately, I don’t think too many kids are learning these lessons today. I don’t claim to know the answers to everything, but I do know that as a child growing up in West Texas, we often had guns in our vehicles at school (so we could go hunting after school) and never once thought of doing anything like we see in schools these days. We had access to all kinds of guns, but there was something else we had: that knowledge that we would reap the consequences of our actions, perhaps for all eternity. We didn’t need laws to prevent us from owning guns, we had a fear that prevented us from using them in a way that would bring about serious consequences.

            I fear that too many of our children these days are being brought up thinking there will be no serious consequences for their actions. Parents are afraid to discipline their children and teach them that there are consequences for fear they may have to deal with the authorities. Schools have lost the ability to discipline for fear they may have to deal with the parents. Churches have softened their preaching on Hell for fear they may lose members. And so we seem to be raising generations of young people who have no fear of consequences and then we wonder why we have the problems in our country we do these days.

            Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” I know there are several different thoughts on exactly what this means, but if you look at the book of Proverbs as a whole, it is filled with things a father wants his son to know: stay away from the wrong people, live a wholesome life that honors God, and there are consequences for your actions. Consequences for the world you live in now, and consequences for what happens when you leave this world. God does watch, and what you do does matter.

            So maybe our world would be different if parents would teach their children that little prayer. Perhaps that fear of death and what happens afterward isn’t such a bad thing. Maybe my parents did it right.

 

Lance Love

Minister of the Moline Church of Christ

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