Tomorrow, my youngest child will be 22. It’s hard to believe! I remember when she was just three and used a huge word in a sentence. Then, just a couple of months ago, she gave birth to her son, Jackson. He was born about 8 weeks premature by c-section because of complications. I would give you more details but I’m afraid I’ll get them wrong. I’ve seen my daughter tested through this experience and she has handled it very well. I’m so proud of her and her husband.
My daughter is a lot like me. She is stubborn. She liked to argue..er…debate because, as we both say, we are usually right! It’s not that we’re egotistical, we just do our homework and we usually know what we’re talking about before we open our mouths. Of course, we know deep down that we’re not always right, but we seem to have the need to speak up for what we think is right and what we think needs to be said. Even though she is not afraid to speak her mind, there is one thing I haven’t heard her say through the entire struggle. — “why me?” That’s another by product of doing your homework — you realize anything can happen — and sometimes it happens to you.
Last night, Laura and I were talking about prayer. We’ve moved beyond the superficial prayer life we used to have. But now, we are examining all avenues of prayer and thinking about it like we’ve never thought about it before. One great shift for me has been hearing my pastor, and his wife, say “Prayer is not to get something from God, it is to be properly formed.” I attended his prayer school where I learned about prayer liturgies and borrowing well-crafted prayers from the past, including Jesus and Saint Francis. I’ve been reading Julia of Norwich and getting familiar with the idea of simply being with God and considering my life as a prayer. So, it was in this context that I discovered something about these two journeys that helped me understand God and prayer a little better.
I remember standing next to the incubator. Gazing down at my new grandson was a little bit overwhelming. I had never seen that small of a child before. He was so small and he had all kinds of tubes and sensors and stuff I couldn’t identify coming out from all around him. His skin color was off and he just looked like he had been through some stuff the last couple of days. Some people tell me we are born evil. I simply cannot believe that any more. Both of my grandchildren left the same impression upon me. It’s like what it says, in Genesis, when God supposedly created the first human. He said, “It was good.” And, that is exactly what I thought when I saw Jackson. I thought “He has such a battle ahead of him, but ‘it is good!'”
Looking across the incubator, I saw my baby girl. She always looks determined, but I could see a little bit of helplessness in her eyes. Trevor is a strong, determined young man but he also showed something that looked different. I don’t blame either of them, I almost returned our first born because I had no idea what to do and I was facing no where near the challenges my daughter and her husband would face. Laura was standing nearby and I just stood there for a moment before I started to cry. It wasn’t pity–it wasn’t remorse of fear–it wasn’t even joy or happiness. It was very simply an acceptance of the gravity of the moment. It’s when you’re about to go down a road you have never been down before.
I didn’t make any great discoveries that evening. I didn’t pray any eloquent prayers. I didn’t give an excellent advice. I didn’t write any meaningful poems. I’ve always said we should have a ministry of presence–we should just be there for people. I wasn’t sure I was going to even be able to do that–I think I might have been fighting the urge to run out of the room or scream out to God or just throw something and say, “What the Hell, God?”
As awesome as my daughter and her husband have been, it’s not them directly that have taught me the lesson about God and prayer. It’s really what Laura and I discussed these months later while discussing what we believe about prayer. It’s all about how we pray for Lily. It’s about what we think about when we think about our youngest daughter and what we imagine God thinks about us.
I’ve already mentioned how we felt about our grandson from the instant we saw him. He was precious–he was good–he was loved–and, he didn’t have to do anything to receive my love–I simply gave it because he was! I have similar feelings toward our daughter. I have always loved her. Nothing she does can change that. I think she knows this. There are some things that come with that, but there are also things that it excludes. I found this especially true during the past few months
I didn’t feel the need to pray that all this would go away. When I hear people say, “God is good” it is usually because something goes the way they imagined it should. But, over and over again, I have experienced situations in my life that didn’t go the way I wanted, but instead turned out for the best. That detour in life was very often the path to maturity or growth or, sometimes, the path to a much better destination. So no, i didn’t hope that we would wake up tomorrow and have a different outcome. I didn’t really pray for anything to change and didn’t try to do something to make it change. I just stood in the hospital room and cried. That seemed like the appropriate thing to do.
Our picture of God is somewhat skewed. I am coming to understand God as one that enters into our situations. I now believe, that much like us, He understands that what we most need is for someone to be there. I think God sits with us–I think God cries with us–I think He also walks with us when it’s finally time to go out and get some real food! You see if God emptied out the hospitals, He would only be solving one of our problems. Physical healing has never been our biggest issue.
Laura always said I was a pushover for my two girls. It was because I felt so helpless most of the time that when I got the opportunity, I jumped at the change to do something for them. But, now that I have more resources and can do more, I find myself holding back more often than not. I always ask myself the simple question, “Is this the best thing I could do for them or is there something better.” My first inclination is usually wrong and I’ve learned to make better decisions. I suppose God always acts in my best interest whether I recognize it or not. Theoretically, if I am getting better at those things then God was always better all along!
I’m still trying to figure this stuff out. I just watched the Santa Clause movie the other night and remembered that I ruled out Santa Claus god a few years ago. You know the one who is “making a list and checking it twice.” I’ve also stopped believing in “angry” god and “retributive” god and the “favorite uncle” that does whatever I want. For now I’m focused on God that comes to the hospital and stands next to my grandson’s bed with me and cries–not because He is helpless or hopeless–but just because I’m His child and that’s what He should do. Maybe I’m wrong–but, I don’t think so!