I remember tiptoeing into the nursery so I could watch them sleep. This seems to be a universal act of parents, adoring their sleeping child after a busy day. Mostly grateful for the stillness of their busy bodies but also thankful for the little people they were.
I would often take that time to pray quick prayers over my babies. And for me, the same prayer would often rise up and out into wherever the Spirit may be. I would ask God that my kids would live a good life. That my kids would be protected from pain. Not that my children would be famous, successful, brainiacs, athletes, NO. I just wanted them to be loved for who they were. That the people around us and in their worlds would accept them for the creations they are. That they would fit in. That they would feel valued. That they would have friends. That they would not struggle with self confidence. This was my deepest desire.
I can tell you right now that if prayer is supposed to work in the way I understood those evenings in the nursery. With God relating to us with the “yes, no, maybe” formula back- my prayers have had a clear answer.
And so as I hold that formula of prayer and see a NO staring me down, I want to reject God. I don’t accept that God. How could God be truly loving and shoot answers from his magic wand that seem so wrong and out of character with who He is?
As I embrace my hurting child. As I listen to their stories of pain and rejection. As I contemplate what I will do with all this hurt. I am confident of one thing.
Those prayer formula’s just don’t work. That is not the God that created me. It’s not God that needs to be pushed away, but my own understanding of how God relates to me. To us.
I am so aware of the deep love and longing I have for my own children. As they make mistakes and deal with life pain, my desire stays the same. Make them whole. Let them experience love.
Nothing they do makes me love them less. Everything they experience becomes part of my story too. So when I consider a God who uses prayer formulas to relate to His children, it just doesn’t make sense.
This is what I believe.
I believe that Christ looks down on us with deep love and longing for us to be whole.
I believe that Christ desires that we embrace the people He created us to be.
I believe that Christ loves me so much more deeply than I love my own children.
And if this is all true, there is no way He would shoot down a NO with his magic wand. Or YES. (and MAYBE? C’mon)
My prayers have changed. I know my children cannot be spared from pain, it’s way too late for that. My prayers have little to do with words or hopeful formulas. In fact, I have no idea what words to use anymore. But when I look at my children, just as Christ looks at me, I experience deep love. A love that cannot fix their problems or make the daily struggles go away.
It’s a love that enters the space they are in, and settles in for the long haul.
I recently had a conversation with a friend who had deep struggles with one of her children. She shared with me how so many people who loved her tried to encourage her by getting her out of the situation they were in, by giving her a break. But, she said, that is not where she experienced love.
The people who were Love to their family were the ones that didn’t try and fix the problem, but entered in.
“They entered into the space with us. They gathered around us and became part of our lives. They visited our child. The had our child in their homes. They loved us. They loved our child.”
So there is the difference.
We cannot save each other out of the mess of life. There are so many things that cannot be avoided. Maybe our task isn’t to find ways to help each other out of life’s most painful moments. Maybe the task is to enter into them with each other. It seems that there is where the true transformative work happens. It seems that there is where we truly encounter the heart of God.