I am amazed by the ways my little girl teaches me. I think that’s how it often is for many of us: in becoming parents, we think we’re going to be the teachers. We think it’s all up to us to impart knowledge and life skills and directions for life. On good days, we imagine that we have a lot to give and can do an okay job at all of this. On bad days, we question why God would choose to place a helpless child in our care. What do we really know, anyway?
As I teach Jennifer about life and faith, I realize how little I know. She asks questions, and I have to dig deeply (maybe too deeply) within myself to find an answer that will satisfy her curiosity. She starts living out the things I’ve taught her, and I see Christ Himself in her…calling me to something more.
Months ago, she developed the normal fascination with sirens. Police cars, ambulances, fire trucks…all of them evoked questions of what the men were doing…where they were going…what might be happening to someone, somewhere that they needed help. I answered as best as I could, not knowing the situations, and told her that the best thing we could do when we heard a siren would be to pray for the people who needed help.
As often happens, I didn’t know how closely she was listening. Before long, every. single. time. she heard a siren (which is often, since we live less than a mile from both police and fire stations) we’d hear the same words: “Lord Jesus, thank you for today and thank you for those people to get all better tomorrow. We love you, Lord Jesus. Amen.”
Heartwarming, to say the least. She seemed to get it, and now it has branched out. Now her prayers ring forth from the back seat when she sees a tow truck, because someone’s car is “sick.” She prays when she sees a car parked on the side of the road. The same prayer, for the most part, every time. “Thank you for those people to get all better tomorrow.”
What this has taught me, slowly but surely, is that it really is possible to have eyes to see people. To see needs. To hear voices crying for help even if they are really saying nothing. It is possible to live in a way that is not as preoccupied with our own agenda as we are with the agenda of Christ.
That really is what it’s about, isn’t it? Praying for people when we see a need…it’s about Christ’s agenda for them. It’s a tiny step outside of my life and my world, peeking into heaven’s plans for someone else. It’s an awareness that I am not the only person in the world…and that there are other things going on than what might be pinging around in my head today.
May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else. (1 Thessalonians 3:12)
Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. (1 Peter 3:8)
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Philippians 2:2-4)
My sweet daughter, in simply doing what I told her she ought to do (but what, admittedly, I did not often actually do before), has shown me a greater way to live. She heard my words…took them to heart…and then ran with them. I don’t think I have to tell you how proud I am of her. She’s three, and she’s getting it.
So where have I gone with this? I’ve been on a journey lately, as you may have read. It’s a journey of giving myself up day by day. It’s a constant prayer for God to use me. It’s a minute-by-minute reminder that I am not my own, and my life is not for me to use for my own purposes.
Sound hard? It is. I don’t think for a minute that I’m doing to finish this work any time soon – or that I might complete this process on this side of heaven. It’s a process that I fully anticipate will take a very, very long time. This business of ridding myself of…myself…it’s no simple thing.
But what I’m learning is that it all starts with a new kind of awareness. A new kind of living. A new kind of eyes. A new way of seeing, if you will. And strangely, one of the most basic lessons I’ve learned lately has come from how my little girl ran with a lesson I taught her.
Lately, I’ve been hearing those sweet little prayers from the back seat as I drive, and they’ve begun to sink in. I’ve found myself beating her to the prayer upon hearing a siren. I’ve prayed for the family whose belongings filled a moving van on the interstate. I’ve prayed for children on a school bus while taking Jennifer to school. I’ve prayed for people in stores and sitting nearby in restaurants.
It’s a small step. It’s a very small step, in the scheme of things. What I think, though, is that the greatest journeys are all comprised of many small steps all grouped together. I’m still learning how to have the eyes and hands of Christ as I walk through life. I’m getting closer, though, one prayer at a time.
On the journey with you,
(Note: Those of you who know my family may be confused by my reference to Jennifer. As my girl gets a little older, I’m giving her a pseudonym anytime I reference her in my online space. When I asked her what name she would want if she could have any name in the world, she said Jennifer. So Jennifer she shall be! Here, anyway….)
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