Just for Decoration

Special thanks to the ministries of St. Lucas Lutheran Early Childhood Center and Word of Life Lutheran School in St. Louis, Missouri, for taking the time to educate my children and many others on the promises of God.

In my household, I get the pleasure of dropping both of my children off at school each day. My wife is a full-time Lutheran school teacher, so she arrives at school quite early and is not able to drop the kids off on a consistent basis. As I load my two- and four-year-olds into our purple Ford Flex, they fill my car with songs from school—songs about Jesus. They kick their legs with excitement as they belt “Jesus Loves Me” with a remix of “Jesus, Remember Me” with a feature by the “ABC” song. I open our sunroof to get some fresh air and therapeutic sun into the car as the kids scarf down their breakfast, bellowing lyrics as we drive along.

Mornings with Jesus

This has quickly become my favorite part of every single day—that ten minutes of hearing my kids sing about Jesus.

One particular day, I was having a tough morning. The pressures of ministry were wearing down on me—the way of the world was tossing me to and fro—and I had “had it” with the singing in the back seat. The wad of French toast residue from an overzealous SUS at the end of the word JESUS during one such song that made a trajectory from one of my children’s mouths (not sure which) directly into my left eye as I looked back at them to check their buckles was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I animatedly declared, “That’s it! Quiet! No talking, singing, or yelling until we get to school!”

Just like that, the purple Ford Flex fell more silent than a library in off-peak hours.

And for the next ten minutes, we let the drizzle of the rain wash over the car with the sunroof protectively closed.

A Sign of the Cross

When we arrived at school, I dropped my daughter off at the early childhood center and then made my way around the corner on foot to my son’s preschool entrance. We were a bit early, so we sat on the brick bench outside of the entrance, silently waiting for the teacher to meet us at the door for a temperature check. In my silence, my eyes caught something.


A statue of Jesus making the sign of the cross.

And in that moment, as I marinated on my feelings of being a major failure as a parent by ruining our sacred morning song time, I became overwhelmed by the sight of the eyes of Jesus staring right back at me. And all at once, the song that my kids sang from Luke 23:42 came rushing back:

Then he [the thief] said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.

I felt immediate shame as I gazed upon King Jesus, the same shame the thief must have felt, and I was assaulted by my sin. Assaulted by my stresses that I let get to me—meanwhile, this King endured all stress. Assaulted by the pressures that I let consume me—meanwhile, He was made to consume the sin of the world in order to give to me the joyous exchange of salvation.

And then, something broke the silence.

My son, Lincoln.

He said, “You lookin’ at that, Daddy?”

I replied, “Yep,” with thoughts running through my head.

Then Lincoln said, “But, Daddy, remember that’s just a decoration. Jesus lives in our hearts.”

He then proceeded to tell the story of Jesus clearer and more animatedly than he had ever done before.

With tears in my eyes, I asked him, “Where did you learn to tell the story like that?”

He replied, “My teachers taught me at school.”

Jesus, Remember Me 

As the church bells rang, I was overwhelmed with emotion. This child had ministered to me. The Gospel had consumed him, and his teachers had affirmed the Good News that his Baptism has sealed. They had taught him about Jesus. They taught him about how real Jesus is, and how His promises are not “just for decoration” but are real. He helped me realize what I had always known: that Jesus remembers me. He has secured His promise of salvation in His right hand. I have no reason to fear or despair. For God is my light and salvation.

And as I bade goodbye to my boy, he hugged me, absolving me of all guilt that I felt. As I walked back to my purple car a forgiven dad, I was reminded that this would not be my only failure as a parent. Yet I opened up my sunroof and looked up at the sun that the Son of God had broken the cloudy sky with—and I saw a rainbow.

And I knew—it was just for decoration.

But I whispered, “Thank You, Jesus, for remembering me.”

And I smiled. Because Lincoln was right.

He lives in my heart.

Teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ through song to all ages. 

Help One and All Rejoice

Picture of Rev. Dr. Gerard Bolling
Rev. Dr. Gerard Bolling is an LCMS pastor and Lutheran university educator. Dr. Bolling holds a BA in theatre from Concordia University Chicago, an MDiv from Concordia Seminary, and a doctor of education (EdD) degree from Concordia University Wisconsin in leadership, innovation, and continuous improvement. His dissertation was focused on human resource development in under-resourced urban ministry structures of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (How LCMS Pastors Are Developed through Mentorship). Dr. Bolling currently serves in a dual call as pastor at Bethlehem Lutheran Church in St. Louis, Missouri, and as assistant professor of leadership and theology in the online modality and coordinator of multicultural engagement at Concordia University Texas. His passion for urban ministry, education, leadership, nonprofit management, mentorship, diversity/equity/inclusion, and distance learning are all married in this dual call as he serves the saints of Bethlehem and the students of Concordia University Texas simultaneously. Dr. Bolling has also spoken at numerous conferences, on podcasts, and at churches, schools, and events within our church body, reflecting the love of Christ and prodding deeper conversations about deaf, urban, and cross-cultural inclusive ministry. He has taught in half the schools of the Concordia University System, thoroughly realizing the depth of knowledge our Concordia schools have to offer to the world they engage. Dr. Bolling has been married to his beautiful and talented wife, Lorenda, for six years. Lorenda serves as a preschool teacher at Word of Life Lutheran School. Together, they have a four-year-old son named Lincoln and a two-year-old daughter named Monroe. Both children were born in different years but on the exact date—October 5! They currently reside on the south side of St. Louis, Missouri.

Subscribe to all CPH Blog topics (Worship, Read, Study, Teach, and Serve)