Monday, March 5, 2012

On bedtime questions and life after death

"Mommy, it seems like Jesus is never coming back."

She's a master at the bedtime stalling techniques, this girl. Big questions and conversation-starters blurted out desperately as the lights go off. I've learned to gently direct most of them toward the next day.

This time, though, there were tears brimming behind the words. I walked back to her bed and sat down once more.

"It just seems like it's taking forever, and I really want him to just come back now because I'd rather go to heaven with him so I don't have to...die someday. I'm afraid it will hurt to die."

We talk, and she holds on to me. I call Daddy in, and together we try our best to speak the right words, glancing at each other over her head and knowing that as our eyes meet, we're both in silent prayer for truth to come quickly to our lips.

She calms, hearing that we all have those questions, those thoughts, those fears over the unknown. That generation upon generation, humanity has waited in longing, and the last lines of the Word itself even echo the cry of her little heart. Her shoulders relax as we speak of the unspeakable gift of an eternity that will far surpass our grandest hopes.

I pray, stroking her hair and asking for peace and rest and trust. She timidly interrupts to ask, won't I please just pray that He comes back in her lifetime?

I smile, exhale deeply as I close my eyes again. She is my daughter, through and through.

In our book, I tell the story of praying so hard as a new mother for what I just knew was best. Craving the safety and firm lines of schedule and plan, I begged for it all to work. Why won't this work? Through my beating fists and frightened pleas, He whispered love over me by answering - instead - with what I needed.

He gives us what grows us.
And sometimes, in the moment, I don't want it. Left to my own devices, I'd choose the path of want and right now and I like this way better, God. My humanity kicks and whines and decides that I'd better just tell Him what His answer should be.

For centuries, His children - the seven-year-old girls at bedtime and the believers fully-grown yet still being grown - have pleaded. In your timing, Lord. (But...could it, maybe, be soon?) My prayers for His will are regularly sprinkled with pieces of my own. And He sits with me and strokes my hair and teaches me to trust. To lose my life in order to find it.

Our house, we've walked peacefully away from name-it-and-claim it, and found - surprisingly - a deeper reverence for the power of prayer. He hears. Always. He responds. Faithfully. And often unexpectedly. We've had to learn and relearn this lesson daily.

I want her to grasp this more firmly than I do. To grow up praying in faith and confidence, knowing that His answers may delight, may surprise, may only be seen in the looking back. But they're always good. Always praise-worthy.

One day, He will come. In the meantime, we lose our lives and find them fresh.

Sometimes...yes...the dying hurts. But what comes next is sweet, indeed.

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