Backseat Sermons

Start children off on the way they should go, 
and even when they are old they will not turn from it. 
Proverbs 22:6 NIV

Running late. 

Two toddlers. 

Parking lot full. Squeezing my boat of a car into a spot beside the trash receptacles. 

Arm full of bags, babies, and Bibles and we dash in the door to find a service starting and pews overflowing. Squeezing my load in with people we didn’t really know wasn’t a quiet, unnoticeable affair.

In the midst of the packed house youth revival that I was attending as a youth leader, I should have been rejoicing. Instead, I was focused on the work it took me personally to get there and the joy was sucked right out of me.

I needed this, though.

Some of our youth were attending. It was my responsibility to be there. That wasn’t why I was there.

I needed this.

As a mother of two toddlers, whose hands were always overfull, ears were always being cried out to, shoulders were laden down with a load too heavy to bear alone, I needed this time out of the house with other people.

In a perfect world, by my definition then, my husband wouldn’t have had to work such long hours at a back-breaking job to support us and we could have attended these services together as a family. Or, he could have kept the kids in the evening so I could have gone alone and had some me time.

Instead, I spent the entire service trying to keep my two toddlers from throwing toys at unsuspecting revival attendees, pulling my top down and exposing me in church, and distracting all those within the building from God whom they had come seeking.

I can’t tell you what was preached about that night. Can’t repeat any testimonies shared, songs sang, or blessings shared. Perhaps you too are wondering by now why I even bothered to attend. Not only did I get nothing out of the service, my children probably distracted many around us.

Exhausted, I loaded everyone into car seats, dumped all of the bags into the front passenger seat, and fell into the driver’s seat.

Lord, I don’t think I can do this. Raise two toddlers. Try to mentor youth. I don’t have the energy. I’m not making a positive influence. I’m just wearing myself out. Are you trying to tell me something here?

Discouraged, I put the car in reverse and backed into trash bins. In a parking lot full of people.

It turns out the trash was fine, my car was fine, everyone all around was fine, but I was furious.

Pulling out onto a curvy, unfamiliar highway in the dark, both kids were still laughing and cutting up. I was not finding any humor in anything that had happened this evening.

“Stop laughing right now! You two were terrible in church tonight! You know the church is God’s house. We don’t behave that way in God’s house. Your behavior caused people to see you instead of God.”

Yes, they were toddlers, but they were toddlers raised using adult vocabulary and in the church.

The laughter ceased with my angered tone.

A clear, small voice said, “The whole world is God’s house. This road is His house. You’re yelling in His house.”

The small child spoke with conviction.

“What did you say?” Unbelievable. I’m trying to correct a child and they’re going to try to correct me?

“Yeah. You’re driving on Him right now because He holds the whole world in the palm of His hand. I wonder if it tickles when we drive on His hand.”

The conversation in the backseat continued while I drove on in silence. 

That building we just left wasn’t God’s house. It was a building God’s people used to meet in and share His love with others. We can’t go to His house because we’re in it all the time, and the way we behave in our car, in our house, in our shower, at our job, well, that’s how we behave in God’s house.

Did God have a message for me that night?

Yes, He did.

Children learn what they live. Don’t leave your children at home because they are too young. They are learning even when you think they aren’t listening. Don’t wait until your children are older to serve Him because you’ll have more time. You won’t.  Don’t water down the message when you’re talking to children. They’re way more intelligent than we give them credit for.

I may have missed the message in the church that night, but the sermon from a toddler in a car seat is one I’ll never forget.

This post was inspired by the Write Tribe Festival of Words-3 prompt to share a personal inspiring story. You can read more inspiring stories here:

I'm taking part in the Write Tribe Festival of Words -3


20 responses to this post.

  1. This is one of the best posts I have read in recent times.Initially I thought you were cribbing about your plight till you brought the whole message with its great impact through the words of the toddler.Come to think of it,young toddlers speak unvarnished truth if only we care to listen.You made my day with this post of yours


  2. Sometimes the biggest truths come out of 'small' mouths. Happens with me too. I am all stressed out and ready to fight out with the world and the brat says something so simple and true that there is a complete meltdown.
    So true. The whole world is His place, whom are we to take charge 🙂


  3. Thank you for the helpful words. you inspire me in your blog.. God is omnipotent and omnipresent He is everywhere its just that He needs you to be his world and he will do the rest of your life.


  4. That must have been a pleasant shock for you. Amazing are the ways of God. Yes, children taken in more than we realise. It is a good idea to expose them to the outside world early itself. That is when the most absorption of facts and faith happens. Really enjoyed your inspirational story. ❤


  5. Now that is so inspiring! sometimes we often forget that small things are very usefull. And God always reminds me with that. Thank you for sharing


  6. You were honest. That, in itself, is inspiring. Loved the way you walked us through the various emotions you were going through. Thank you for the lesson!


  7. Wow! Such a lovely post. Children are wise beyond their years and most of the times than us too! I loved the backseat sermon so much. Hugs to the kids!


  8. Wow! Those were some very wise words from your kids and we can all learn from them too! Enjoyed reading your inspiring story, Carrie 🙂


  9. This was a fantastic post. Your children are so wise aren't they? 🙂


  10. Children speak unblemished truths innocently.


  11. Carrie this post was an eye-opener for me too! Thanks for sharing your story


  12. Thank you so much for stopping in to chat. Your kind words have warmed my heart. At the time, the toe stomping hurt, but now I treasure the lesson. Kids say the purest things. We only have to be willing to hear with our hearts. Please drop in again!


  13. I have so many of these “backseat sermons”. My kids, teenagers now, are always telling me to stop repeating them. 🙂


  14. Richard,

    Thanks for stopping in! PLease drop in again.


  15. Thank you for your kind words. It is always in the oddest places I have found the purest and truest lessons. We have always spoke to our children as adults. Yes, they were allowed to play and be kids, but our conversation has always been at a high level. Developmentally, as well as spiritually, I have always been able to tell a difference.


  16. Sometimes it is the smallest thing that makes the largest impact. I always think of the rings in a pond after a small stone is thrown in…


  17. Thanks for dropping in today, Carol. I've always believed honesty is the best policy. Even when it shows me at my worst. Like this one. 🙂


  18. Aditi,

    Thank you for your kind words. Children are wise. We are wise when we choose to listen instead of shushing them or ignoring their words. Please drop in to chat again!


  19. Shilpa,

    Thanks for dropping in today. We can all learn a lot from the children in our lives if we take the time to listen. It's being willing to be taught by someone with less experience that makes it possible. Occasionally I need brought down a peg or two so I can hear. 🙂


  20. Love this! Your honesty is so refreshing. We have all had those “yelling at the kids, running over trashcans” type of moments. I always appreciate when my children speak wise words beyond their years to me. I love how your precious child turned that car ride into something so sweet wondering if you were tickling God :).


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