Today I got to hear the testimony of a young woman who is a recovering opioid addict and alcoholic.
She shared her whole story, starting with her adoption as a young child because her own mother was an addict to her high school career of good grades and popularity (think homecoming queen); her military career as an army nurse to her return home that eventually led to a life of addition and alcohol abuse.
She told of how she got involved in a relationship with a man who was in and out of prison, had two children while she was in and out of jail herself, leading up to a point where she decided, after repeated attempts at rehab, it would be best to just give up custody of her children and go to prison.
Through a number of circumstances, she instead found herself placed into a Christian halfway house where she was required to attend Celebrate Recovery meetings each week and slowly her turnaround began. Today marked two years of sobriety and she and her family (yes, she still has her daughters and the same man in her life) now attend church together and are finding their way in a new life.
I’m not the only one who heard her testimony. This particular Sunday in this church, the children attended the whole service with their family, all ages. So it wasn’t just adults in the audience hearing this testimony. It was toddlers and preschoolers; it was elementary kids and emerging middle schoolers; it was high schoolers and recent graduates…it was everyone.
I was interested in seeing how the children would respond. My kids (13, 11, and 6), my nieces (7 and 5) were in the pews, most listening intensely. And learning.
They learned about the devastation caused by drugs and alcohol.
They learned about the emptiness of a life of partying and loose living.
They learned that behind every desperate situation is a larger story, that the person they see sitting on a bench with a newborn and a one-year old, alone and destitute, has a story and needs.
They learned about redemption and grace, the power of community and the need for family (even if that family isn’t related by blood), that God uses His church to heal and to hold those who the world rejects, spits out and destroys.
And all I could think was,
“What if they hadn’t been here to hear this story? What if I just tried to tell them all these things? That drugs will leave them lonely and hurting. That alcohol abuse offers promises it can’t keep. That there is more to each person than we could ever understand in passing. And that God’s grace, the power of redemption and the role of the body of Christ are very real and very needed in this world and THEY get to be a part of it!”
Because I do tell them all of that. And I’m sure you do too
But nothing could take the place of having all those things confirmed through the power of a story of a life redeemed, the power of testimony.
As parents, I know we want to be cautious in what we expose our children to and at what age we do so, but friends, the world is not so cautious. The media that surrounds us doesn’t care so much about what our kids are exposed to. What better place for them to be exposed than in the church, where the truth of the lie of drugs, alcohol, sex, and popularity are made known alongside the forgiveness, redemption and grace of God.
I think we need more stories not fewer. We need to hear these things.
Parents, if you happen to have one of these stories, tell your kids. Tell them how empty your life was apart of from Christ. If you can, share it in your church. Look for others and let your kids be exposed, from a young age, to stories that demonstrate for them the truths we long for them to understand as they grow. And churches, don’t be afraid to let those stories be heard, from the pulpit, in the full assembly, as often as God allows those redemption stories to be part of yours!
I know my kids are going to be exposed to these things as they grow. I know that at some point, drugs will be offered, alcohol will be available, popularity will be desired, and sex will be a temptation. I also know that this lady’s story today will be in their heads and hearts as well. And I hope that they will always remember the truths they heard today.
For more information about
- Kids in Worship
- Determining which Type of Family Ministry model works best for your church
- Discipleship in Intergenerational community
- Encouraging the continued conversation through Practical Discipleship at Home
- Seminars, Workshops, Coaching
About this Blog
Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and church planter at Plowshares BIC. With years of experience in family ministry and children’s ministry, she is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family and Seedbed