For his eighth birthday he wants a heart shaped cake with white frosting and "I Love God" written on it in red letters. He wanted red frosting, but I put my foot down when it comes to red food dye in large quantities. So we compromised with the white frosting and red letters. The "I Love God" was not negotiable.
Why did he decide that's what he wanted on his cake? I don't know. For the past 6 months or so he has been exploring what faith means and what it is to be a Christian; I think this is just one of his ways of stating something that is occupying his thoughts.
When we first started to notice the language delays, when it progressed into realizing that Gates would never see the world in the same way that most of us do I wondered what effect it would have on his ability to develop a strong core of faith. Would he be able to understand what it means to make a decision for Christ? Where does God fit in the mind of someone who is wired to think in logical fact patterns?
Since those early questions I have come to several conclusions. One is that I am no longer comfortable being a proponent of strict decision theology. Are there people who have radical, defining salvation moments? Sure. But for many of us, adults and children alike, the path of faith is a winding one and we can never say exactly when we stepped on the path, only that we know for certain we are on it. If I were to stick to the strictest of decision theology moments I would say that I stepped on that path in third grade when the traveling revival show came to town and scared me with their illustrations of mice, bear traps and pencils snapped in half. OH MY GOODNESS I HAVE TO BECOME A CHRISTIAN RIGHT NOW OR I AM GOING TO HELL!!!!! Or perhaps I could pick the moment in my college years when I decided that my initial decision meant nothing because it happened out of fear, so I was going to choose to believe in God as a loving Father. I am not sure that either of those moments was THE defining moment. Rather, God has slowly drawn me onto the path, with each simple prayer prayed, with each step of faith, with each dawning realization of the depth of His grace.
And so I am comforted by this, by the idea that even if he does not dot all the i's and cross all the t's demanded by many churches, even if he never follows an altar call, even if he never prays the specific prayer of salvation, Gates is learning what it means to love God as evidenced by his desire to declare it on his birthday cake. As he matures he will begin to understand it with more depth. He will understand what sacrifice means and he will understand the grace that has been given to him.
We serve a God of immense and powerful grace, grace that defies the boxes we try to put it in. Maybe that makes me a heretic, or maybe it makes me the mother of a child who will experience God in ways I can't begin to understand.