As my children have become teens, I have instead experienced that disconcerting feeling that something has happened during the night that I should have been aware of, but wasn’t. Whether it is the sound of the car in the driveway that I have missed because I fell asleep too soon, or the shadowy figure at my bedside trying to explain why she’s worried about her test the next day, usually I have an uneasy sense that in my sleep-induced fog, something important slipped by me.
God's word tells us that Samuel “did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.” Samuel’s ears -- not the ones made of flesh, but ears to hear, given by the Lord himself -- were perceiving a spiritual Voice issuing a spiritual call. This is what Paul means when he writes in his first letter to the Corinthians:
Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:12-14)
When God calls one of his children, the child answers, but not every child answers at the first call. We in children’s ministry must be sensitive to the reality that the Lord’s timing is not usually the same as our own. Sally Michael, who develops curriculum for Children Desiring God ministries, says this:
Remember that conversion does not always happen instantaneously but often involves a journey of questioning, evaluating, struggling, and learning to trust. Conversion is a process. The struggle is good—the ugliness of the human heart needs to be experienced and grieved over.
Often at this stage, our temptation as adults is to be impatient and jump to the resolution of the struggle—to “insure salvation for the child.” Hence, this is where our faith as sowers is really tested: do we trust God to bring the child through victoriously? Will we trust in the sovereignty and goodness of God? It is at this time of waiting that our sin nature tempts us to take things into our own hands and push the child to make a commitment that he may be unprepared to make. We fear the outcome of the child’s struggle and we want to secure the desired result. But we need to let go—to guide, encourage, point to Jesus by all means, but also to let go and let the child deal with God, and God with the child. We must not try to manipulate a response.
Read more here from the Children Desiring God blog..