A dear friend of mine (like a little sister, actually!!) related a story to me recently. Which reminded me of a story of my own. Which reminded me of some spiritual truth. Which I needed reminding of.
And I thought you might, too.
My friend was praying with her little daughter and the precocious little gal said "lots of times I pray and He doesn't do it!". Her wise mama took the opportunity to explain to that adorable girl some principles that those of us much older in the faith still struggle with. Sometimes He says yes, sometimes He says wait, and sometimes He says no. Keep praying. Don't ever think He doesn't hear or that He isn't at work!
This incident reminded me of a story from when my firstborn was about 4. A stray cat had adopted himself into our family and Katie loved for him to visit. (I had already sufficiently brainwashed her that people live indoors and animals live outdoors so she never even asked for him to come in. Mom for the win :) ). Every day, he came and every day she went out to play with him, feed him and consider him her own. Meanwhile, I pretty much fasted and prayed that the cat did not have rabies.....just sayin....
Anyhow, you know how this story is gonna go...one day he didn't show up. I can't say that it broke my heart or anything but I did wonder how my sweet baby girl was gonna handle not seeing her furry friend again.
She asked about him every day for about a week. I was masterful in my distracting antics but she persisted in asking. (I've since learned to be thankful for that character trait but at the time it was maddening!)
Then guess what she suggested.
"Let's pray, Mommy, and ask God to send my kitty back".
Seasoned feline expert that I am (insert eyeroll here), I knew that cat was long gone. It had appeared in our yard for a season (a feeding season) but it had moved on. Or worse. But I knew that ball of fur was not going to reappear at our door. I had tried to explain the ways of the mousers to my daughter but she didn't seem to agree.
She insisted that she would ask God to send her kitty back and that He would.
Crisis of faith. For real.
I knew that cat was not coming back and I was so worried that Katie's faith would also vanish if she approached God with this request. Because I knew the cat was not coming back.
What's a mom to do?
Of course I wanted her to go to God with her needs. Of course I wanted her to know Him as her good, good Father. And as all powerful and all sufficient. And all that other stuff.
But I was worried - what was she going to do when He didn't send that kitty back to our yard? Should I "let" her pray this? Oh my!
I needn't have pondered the last question because "letting" her pray was out of my control. She prayed.
As I dug into my worries, I realized that I was worried about God's reputation in Katie's mind. I wanted to protect her from being disappointed with Him. Or worse, from disbelief.
I guess I thought He couldn't handle it. And I figured I would have to pick up the pieces of her broken faith and figure out how to put them back together again.
I thought that in order for her to have faith, to trust her Heavenly Father, she needed to experience all "yes's" to her prayers.
Foolish Mommy I was.
How naive (and prideful) to think I needed to put God in an appealingly wrapped box in order for my child to trust Him. How foolish to think I needed to present Him to her in a way that would be more "acceptable", easier to believe, more capable of placing her confidence in.
God is I AM. He is self-existent, self-sufficient, and certainly not in need of my puny protection or public relations efforts.
He wants children - and all of us - to come to Him and see Him as He is. High and lifted up. Holy. Worthy of our praise. The Lord and there is no "other". The One who needs no explanation for His actions. The One who is completely worthy of our trust.
That is Who I wanted Katie to know. That is Who she wanted to approach with her request.
The question wasn't Katie's faith...it was mine.
Could I trust Him with a no?
That spring, I learned that I could. I not only "let" Katie pray for the kitty to return, I prayed with her.
And I didn't "make it safe" - you know what I mean - "Lord, we know You might say no but that's OK".
We just prayed.
We asked our Heavenly Father to send that kitty back to our yard.
For real. Maybe that kitty didn't know his feline nature should have been to move on to the need feeding ground but he showed up on our deck just a few days after we had begun to pray.
And Katie's reaction - "Mommy! Look what God did! He sent my kitty back!"
I don't know what impact that had on Katie's faith but I know it strengthened mine. And I know all about the fact that there are times He says no. Yep, I know all about those.
But sometimes He says yes.
Are we brave enough to ask Him?
Mark 10: 14,15 - Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as there. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it at all.