Seeing this rainbow from my wheelchair the night before my extensive back surgery May 30 2016, I felt God’s love.
I knew God had brought me across the country to this surgeon for a reason. I also knew that God would be with me no matter what. And like Noah centuries before me, I experienced God’s rainbow promise of love that he would never desert me. Unlike Noah, I experienced this rainbow in the middle of my storm.
God’s rainbow promise of love for our daughter.
As a sign of God’s enduring love, we chose the rainbow as the symbol for our third daughter. Following the advice of Trent and Smalley’s The Blessing, we sought to bless her with a positive image. She grew up knowing that after the storm comes the rainbow. And God’s love is with us throughout both.
As a small child, she loved the bright colors of the rainbow and loved the Bible story of the rainbow’s origin. Of course, she also loved the certainty of God’s enduring love.
Instead of a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, she envisioned a heart. God’s heart of love was always the meaning of the rainbow. So we painted her bedroom walls with rainbows and hearts.
God’s rainbow promise of love challenges us to live actively aware of that constant love.
In response to God’s abundant care of me through much physical pain and uncertainty, I needed to share God’s love. I needed to share my experience of his love and my certainty of his love as expressed in the Bible. Romans 8: 38-39 says, ” 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (NIV)
In the same way, our daughter grew up knowing the love of God as a constant in her life. She also knew that God had called her to be a witness to the constancy of his love.
What blesses us as parents now is the ways she has incorporated sharing God’s love for others into her life. As Noah trusted that God was with him through the long, long storm, she has learned to trust. She knows that God that is always with her through the long storms in her life. As he is with all of us through the long storms in our lives.
Unbelievers who enter our daughter’s home have commented to her on the peace they feel there. She knows the reason. And she is able to share it with them. She is a good example of what Rosaria Butterfield calls “radical hospitality.”
May we all experience God’s rainbow promise of eternal love. And may we share it confidently with others.
The perils of young adulting seem to be increasing.
The perils of young adulting have always existed. But today they seem more confusing than ever. As I’ve worked with countless college students and three daughters navigating that territory, I appreciate the growing complexity they face.
When I sought a clear path as a young adult, I often found “Road Closed” and “Detour” signs blocking my way. And I longed for flashes of lightning or a banner down from heaven.
But today the perils of young adulting almost seem like distorted bright reflections on a wet pavement.
My college students often told me they had expected college to be a wonderful time. And it often was. But it was also often painful. Life confused them.
I regularly shared my mother’s wisdom. She had comforted my sisters and me more times than I can count this way: “Honey, don’t ever let anyone tell you these are the best years of your life. It gets better.”
One of my students responded by telling me her story. She had so frequently been told in high school that those would be her best years, that after graduation she attempted suicide.
Similarly, at twelve, one of my daughters heard from an elderly woman in church, “Enjoy these years, honey. They’re the best years of your life.” My daughter walked to the car with us afterward and asked, “Shall I just kill myself now? It’s all downhill from here?”
Fortunately, she was not feeling suicidal. But she was twelve! And for someone to tell her that was the best time of her life was unknowingly cruel. She wanted reassurance that life would get better. We probably all remember the painful swings of emotions in adolescence. Clueless adults can make those even worse.
Unfortunately, as adults we can easily idealize childhood or young adulthood and give pain to others as we reminisce.
Even college students are guilty of the same thing as they idealize their childhoods.
I remember being shocked by how hard it was for my students to understand the topic of a poem I taught on the fears and traumas of childhood. They read it through the eyes of nostalgia. A poem talking about night lights and thumb sucking had to be happy. Most simply could not see the fears expressed in the poem.
What they needed to see is what all of us need to see: each age has its joys and its pains. And at any stage, focusing on our fears can derail us.
We can pray through Philippians 4:6-7, by ourselves and with our children:
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (NIV)
We know that God promises us peace, but that does not make the baby’s hunger disappear instantly. It doesn’t prevent a child from being afraid in the night. And it doesn’t prevent young people from having to figure out what God wants them to do with their lives. And it certainly doesn’t prevent parents from experiencing the agony of letting go and letting God take charge–of our lives, of our children’s lives, of our friends’ lives.
As I often said to my girls while praying through Philippians 4 with them, “It would be so nice if we could just give our concerns to God and be done with them. Unfortunately, he still wants us to do the required work. And we have to trust him to let us know what that is.”
And trusting is hard. At any age. Whether in the perils of young adulting or much older.
Faces turned toward God.
Watching a field of sunflowers with their faces turned toward the sun reminds me of how we–as children of God–were created to live with our faces turned toward God.
As a small child, our middle daughter made us think of a sunflower. She was so full of sunshine and so eager to express God’s love to others. When her grandma said to me, “There’s no beating her face for sunshine,” I knew I had found her symbol.
Her older sister’s symbol was a young apple tree. Hers was a sunflower. She loved the symbol and lived into it, as I had hoped after learning the idea from Trent and Smalley’s The Blessing.
We told her that we thought of her as a living sunflower. She reflected God’s love to others just as sunflowers reflect the sunshine in their bright color.
As a child, she collected sunflower memorabilia. As a teenager, she painted her bedroom wall with beautiful, very individual sunflowers. As a bride, she carried sunflowers.
When she was a little girl, she did not know much of the Old Testament yet.
She did not know that Isaiah 60:19 says,
“The sun will no more be your light by day,
nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you,
for the Lord will be your everlasting light,
and your God will be your glory. ” NIV
But she knew that God loved her and wanted her to love others. She also knew her shining face made us think of reflecting God’s love to others, like sunflowers reflect the sun. I’m sure that encouraged her bright spirit.
But she had times of difficulty growing up, as all our children did. We thanked God then, as we do now, that she knew God’s love was not just for sunny times.
Yet she knew God loved her even when she felt miserable. She used to ask me why God didn’t just make her feel better when she was sick and prayed to him. Since she knew he could, why didn’t he?
The only thing I could tell her is that I didn’t know. But I also told her that suffering came into the world as a result of sin. I also knew that sickness and pain make us long for heaven and God’s presence in a way unblemished happiness would probably not.
God kept his promise from Numbers 6:25 to make his face shine upon her and be gracious to her. And later he graced her with the ability to share that loving favor from God with others who had struggled as she had.
Living with faces turned toward God.
As a high schooler, she once asked me to write down all the Bible verses I had shared with her over the years. I was surprised and knew I had no way of knowing what they all were. Then she told me she wanted to make little cards of them to encourage a friend as they had encouraged her.
My mother’s heart was full. God’s word had nestled in her heart and found a place from which to go forth in love.
[photo by marco-secchi-585553-unsplash]
Children Questioning Why
Thinking back to my years of children questioning why, I remember wondering if their questions would ever end. But they always did. Because their “But why?” always led me to the only final answer: “Because that’s the way God made it.”
With my first child, I remember thinking she would not be satisfied by that answer. And she did always initially ask why God had made that choice.
But when I told her that I didn’t know and we could ask him when we got to heaven, that seemed to satisfy her. Until she thought of her next question.
The pattern repeated itself with my other two children. Always curious. Always wanting to know why. And always wanting to know why about the answer.
Each child repeated the pattern of questioning a surprising number of times .
“Why can’t we see the end of the lake? If there’s land on the other side, why can’t we see it?”
“Why does it get dark at night?”
“But why do I have to sleep at night?”
“How do you know candy is bad for me?”
“But why do dogs bark? And why are they so loud?”
“Why do the leaves turn different colors?”
I started thinking my children questioning why were a sign of the God-shaped vacuums within them.
When Pascal said that each person is created with a God-shaped vacuum within, I don’t think he meant only adults. Our children’s questions also demonstrate their need to know who God is and what he is like.
Their native curiosity demonstrates their growing intelligence, but their willingness to accept God as the ultimate answer is powerful.
They know he is the prime mover. They couldn’t tell us that. But they know its truth instinctively. They know the truth is bigger than us as human beings.
Our need to tell them this truth is just as important.
We need to explain that we don’t know why some fish are created to live in salt water, some in fresh water, and some in both. Because our children need to know we don’t know everything. We may want them to think we know everything. But they need to know we don’t.
And our need to acknowledge that God knows so much that we can’t possibly know fits with our own God-shaped vacuums. We may not always feel the need to tell our children that we are limited.
But it’s an important part of our modeling dependence on him.
And, when we think about it, don’t we as adults constantly have questions we can’t find answers to?
I used to think I had so many questions I planned to ask God as soon as I got to heaven. Then I started thinking I wouldn’t need to ask him when I got there. I would already know. But now the more I learn about the new heavens and the new earth, the more I think learning will be one of the continual gifts of eternal life.
Learning is one of the prime gifts God gives us on earth, so it makes sense that our process of learning in heaven might be even more magnificent.
[photo by joshua-alfaro-353879-unsplash]
Starting young with growing roots deep into Christ.
I love this photo of the boy sitting in the huge tree. The enormous tree seems to be wrapping its arms around him and bringing him contentment. A child this age can’t understand the root system of a huge tree like this. Nor does he know the concept of a child growing roots deep into Christ. But he can know where he feels safe.
Rooting ourselves deeply in Christ makes us feel safe in the arms of God, as this boy feels in the tree. And it can start so early. Praying with a baby who is fussing for a reason we can’t understand. Praying with a toddler over something he feels terrible about. Little ones can learn that Jesus answers their prayers in amazing ways and that he is their ultimate safety.
Writing a talk the other day, I thought about how our children began putting down their roots into Christ at an early age. Inspired by Trent & Smalley’s book The Blessing, we gave one of our daughters the symbol of a young tree. It symbolized how we saw her in Christ, as a child who loved Jesus and sought to live for him. At her young age it was impossible to know all the fruit God would allow her to bear. But we saw the beginnings. We gave her the symbol of a very young apple tree and found a real one to take her picture standing near.
The passage we chose for her was Psalm 1, with an emphasis on verse 3: “That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.”
As an adult growing roots deep into Christ.
That verse has realized its promise. We’ve seen our child become an adult woman who has an active prayer life and active ministry to the many people God has placed in her life.
Another favorite passage that now fits her and is a challenge for each of us is Colossians 2: 6-7— “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness” (NIV).
Remembering the traumas she experienced in her young adult life, I am so grateful that her rootedness in Christ allowed her stay safe and know she was in the arms of Jesus. Even when she wondered what in the world God was doing in allowing her to get so sick. Multiple times even when she nearly died.
Growing roots deep into Christ moved her from being a child who played church–preaching to and baptizing dolls and stuffed animals–to a grown up who preaches to and baptizes real people. When she was four years old, we had no clue that it was more than play. But God knew. And he grew those roots and built her up in him.
[photo by martha-dominguez-de-gouveia-567149-unsplash]