October is a bittersweet month for us. But I do still find it so enchanting.
I love the colors. The trees turn into works of art. The sky just seems to look bluer.
I love the hay rides and pumpkin carving and picking out costumes. The seasonal flavors that only appear when autumn hits. (When else would I eat or drink pumpkin flavored everything?) Hoodies and jeans and warm PJs.
Our October weekends this year were packed full, but Isaiah had one Friday off of school. Adam took the day off, as well, and we crammed as much fall-ish activity into one day that we possibly could. We wanted to make autumn special for the boys. To make lots of joyful memories in October to balance the sorrowful ones.
But I didn’t just want to plan a fun day for our family. I want our memories to also carry purpose – that we might be diligent in using every grace-given moment with our kiddos to point them to Jesus.
Just as the sights, smells, and tastes of October conjure up emotions and memories for me of a sweet baby lost, I want the fun and beauty of October to entice my boys to be thrilled by the Gospel.
Death bringing Life.
Surrender making way for Freedom.
The Old being made New.
I don’t want the Gospel to be just a story or Bible trivia to my boys. I want them to truly know it. To experience it, taste it, live it. I want them to be so impressed by it that there’s a permanent impression on their hearts because of it.
So that chilly October Friday morning, we hiked up a mountain. 1,000 steps up a mountain, to be exact.
It’s one of our favorite hikes and it’s beautiful in the fall.
Isaiah successfully made it to the top last year, though Daddy carried him down on his back. This year, Toby was on Adam’s back in the backpack carrier, so Isaiah didn’t have a choice but to do the whole hike on his own 5 year old legs. It’s not a simple hike for anyone, let alone a kindergartner. When we stopped to take a break, we talked about the difficulty of the hike. How hard it was to get up the mountain. We talked about the heavy load on Adam’s back and what it would feel like for Isaiah to carry his brother.
I reminded Isaiah that God gave the people rules in the Old Testament not just to show them how life worked best, but also to show them that they couldn’t do it all on their own. The law showed them how far they missed the mark from perfection. To remind them of how far their sin separated them from a holy God. Isaiah had just learned about the Ten Commandments at church, so every 100 steps, we talked about one of those commands. How we had broken them. How our hearts, left on their own, were terribly sinful.
Trying to be perfect couldn’t get us up the mountain. We couldn’t shake the heavy load of sin on our backs. We needed a Rescuer.
As we kept hiking, Adam gave Isaiah a rock to carry. We wanted him to “feel” the weight of sin and challenged him to carry the rock the rest of the way up to the top.
But Isaiah loves challenges like this. He happily carried the rock…the entire way to the top.
He was so proud of himself.
“See, mom, I DID do it by myself!”
I heard so much of my younger self in his words. Growing up in a Christian home, being a “goody-goody”, rule-follower, and people-pleaser, I never really rebelled or developed a colorful testimony. I towed the line. I followed the rules. I knew Jesus loved me and sacrificed for my sins. I believed it, trusted it, and appreciated it. But I guess, l just didn’t think my sins were that big of a deal. I didn’t see the depth of my depravity. Without realizing it back then, I think I thought I could be “good” on my own merit. I don’t think I truly saw the beauty of the Gospel because, subconsciously, maybe I felt like I deserved it. Like I could do it by myself. How often had my self-righteousness and pride blinded me from the beauty of grace?
This is the humbling truth that lies at the heart of Christianity. We love to be our own saviors. Our hearts love to manufacture glory for themselves. So we find messages of self-salvation extremely attractive, whether religious (Keep these rules and you earn blessing) or secular (Grab hold of these things and you’ll experience blessing now). The gospel comes and turns them all upside down. It says: You are in such a hopeless position that you need a rescue that has nothing to do with you at all. And then it says: God in Jesus provides a rescue which gives you far more than any false salvation your heart may love to chase.”
– Tim Keller
After we climbed the 1,000+ steps, we hiked a little further until we reached a look-out that we enjoy. It was cloudy, windy, and cold. Toby was getting fussy. Isaiah’s nose was getting runny. I had planned to read some verses with Isaiah there, but told Adam maybe we should just head back down. But Isaiah overheard me.
“No, mom, I thought we were gonna talk about the Bible up here!”
I definitely couldn’t argue with that. So, overlooking the mountains across from us and the valley below us, I read these verses to my boy:
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gently and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
– Jesus (Matthew 11:28-30)
“There is rest in Christ, rest of conscience, and rest of heart, rest built on pardon of all sin, rest flowing from peace with God…
Jesus interposes no hard conditions; He speaks nothing of work to be done first, and deservingness of His gifts to be established: He only asks us to come to Him just as we are, with all our sins, and to submit ourselves like little children to His teaching.”
– J.C. Ryle
We talked about Jesus’ invitation to drop that heavy load we tried carrying up the mountain. He, after all, was the only one who could give that invitation – the only One Who could achieve a rescue that we couldn’t do ourselves. We talked about what it meant for Jesus to be our substitution – His blood becoming the only necessary payment for my sin. The perfect Lamb that took my place so that I can rest in His righteousness.
“For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”
– 2 Corinthians 5:21
I reminded my sweet boy that unlike our hike up the mountain, it is impossible for us to make it to God, to earn His favor or peace with Him, on our own. That the gift of salvation – our rescue – was a gift of GRACE and all for God’s glory.
“All of this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.”
– 2 Corinthians 5:18-19
A message that I’ll gladly speak to my boys every day that I live!
On our way home, we picked out pumpkins and took them back to our house to the begin process of turning them into something special.
We read The Pumpkin Gospel, and as we scooped out the goop and seeds, we talked about needing God to clean out our hearts of sin.
That believing and accepting the Gospel means that we are justified and forgiven!
And that just like our pumpkin, we become a new creation. God’s own workmanship.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
– 2 Corinthians 5:17
A beautiful, new creation. A changed life that desperately wants to follow Jesus and shine brightly for Him.
“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”
– 2 Corinthians 5:20
Later we made caramel apples. As we opened and melted the caramels, I told Isaiah that we were going to make the caramel apples and give them to someone else.
Even though we had paid for the caramels, we would give it to someone else at no cost.
Even though we did the work, we would give it to someone who didn’t earn it.
And we wouldn’t take it back.
Just like God’s gift to us.
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
– Romans 6:23
A gift meant to be taken. Ingested. And lived. Oh, how I want this for my boys.
I’m praying that their lives will be lived in humble gratitude for God providing a Rescue before we even knew how desperately we needed it.
Not surprisingly, some of Isaiah’s favorite pages of his Bible to read are the ones that talk about the prophet he was named after…
A prophet proclaiming a Rescue and a Rescuer. We’re praying that our Isaiah also proclaims the meaning of his name.
When I asked him that night why Jesus was the only Rescuer, he replied,
“Because He was the substitute for our sins. He’s the only one who could do the job.”
The only One who could do the job.
To carry our sin.
To be the payment in our place.
To forgive and make us clean.
This is the Gospel.
Producing the beautiful harvest of a new creation.
Thank you, Autumn, for the sweet reminders. May our lives declare it every day.