One afternoon, I was sitting on the couch watching our kids play when my toddler, who had spent the last minute or two filling a small tote bag full of puzzle pieces and toys, approached me and said:
“I’m all ready to go.”
“Where are you going?” I asked.
“To Jesus,” was her nonchalant reply.
And, dear reader, I am incredibly embarrassed to admit to you that I had no idea what to say. I stared at her, mouth gaping open in equal parts pride and horror.
I was proud, because moments like this affirm the success of our efforts to establish a household culture where the name of Jesus is known just as well as any other family member’s name. I was happy because I want my children to want Jesus. And here she is, my sometimes-terrorist toddler, telling me she wants to go to Jesus!
It would therefore seem odd that I should be horrified. But immediately I wanted to tell her there was no need to go to Jesus today. It was too soon! Maybe later. In about sixty seconds, I wrestled with all of my hopes and desires for her and all of my knowledge about for whom and by whom she was made.
Can I be totally honest with you for a moment? I live in dread of loss. I was hyper-worried about miscarriage during our kids’ first trimesters – and even beyond in some cases. Sometimes I get super worried if my husband is unusually late coming home from work – what if there was an accident? I don’t even like to write about it because I feel like I’m tempting fate (as if that’s a real thing). If one of my parents calls and leaves an ambiguous voicemail asking me to call back from some unspecified reason, I really come unraveled, fearing the worst (this is, legitimately, a response learned by experience, but that’s another story for another day).
I really do believe that God will provide in all things. But with this particular thing, I have a lot to learn from Mark 9:
And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him. And he asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.” – Mark 9:14-24
I believe, but there are places in my heart where I still have doubts. I have to ask for Jesus to have compassion on me, to help me. I still have to cry out, “I believe; Help my unbelief!”
In the end, I didn’t have a chance to reply to my toddler. She moved onto the next thing (“I’m eating a cupcake!”), completely oblivious to the stupefied internal turmoil in which she’d left her mom. And because I was so caught up on this area of unbelief in my life, I missed a chance to witness to my child that was served up so perfectly, practically on a silver platter. What a perfect time it would have been to pull out the Bible and turn to the book of Luke, where Jesus tells his disciples to let the children come to Him! I should have said, “It’s so good that you want to go to Jesus! Jesus wants you to go to Him!”
So this was, first, a very good reminder that these opportunities pop up when you least expect them, and vigilance is incredibly important. And, lest you worry that I am overly exercised about my perceived parenting failures, she has provided me several opportunities since this episode to affirm her desire for Jesus.
But this little minute-long conversation with my two year old in our living room was a really good reminder of the mercy and help I need from Jesus in all things, but in particular, some things more than others. Thankfully, “…from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” (John 1:16)
To Thee I run now with great expectation
To honor You with trust like a child
My hopes and desires seek a new destination
And all that You ask Your grace will provide – Sandra McCraken, Grace Upon Grace