What We Pray for the Lives We Touch

This morning I finished the last sentence of this month’s short story.

It had to be this morning, because last night I fell asleep sitting up as I tried to read through the final draft.

This afternoon, I sit looking out the bay window with a baby napping above and a little girl playing with her daddy nearby, and I think I could watch the rustling chorus of the aspens in the yard for hours. It might even be better than sleep.

It’s been a record week for this house.

One ambulance,
two emergency room visits,
three-digit fevers,
four-hour intervals of medicines…

I sat on a bed in triage with a very sick little one in my arms. She nestled her hot cheek on my shoulder, and then against my chest, any way that she could try to feel safe and rest, and we sat together for hours that way. But the nurses had to come for samples and swabs, so in the midst of the fearful tears I spoke as gently as I could into her ear and asked her where Mommy was.

Even though her hand was behind me, she curled it around my side to pat me just over my heart.

“That’s right. Mommy’s here. I’m right here, and I’m going to stay. I’m not going anywhere.” I put together the words that would make the most sense to her. “Mommy stay.”

The tests still hurt, but she calmed a little, and I held her close as she cried. The next time the nurse came, we had the same exchange, and again, and again. Every time, no matter how great the fear, she answered my question with a pat on my shirt.

“Yes. Mommy stay.”

*

Afterward we came home, Y and I worn to a fragile thinness from holding our child and wanting to take her pain.

Together we thought of a long-ago flight back from our honeymoon, when the plane rattled and surged so violently under thrashing winds that we each thought it might take a final dive into the earth. In those minutes, as our laced fingers turned white beneath rigid elbows, we both had the same private thought: we were in the care of God, whether the plane continued on or stopped its journey in mid-air. We were safe with Him.

We thought of this, because it was harder for both of us to be in the emergency room and the terrible moments preceding it than it was to be on that plane.

It was harder when it was our child.

We know our children are on loan from God: they were not made by our hands, their hearts are not ours to search, and we cannot watch over them without ceasing. We must sleep, even at a hospital bedside.

But this Father who knit them together before we laid eyes on them — He will know every hidden fear and victory of their hearts, and test every thought within; where our eyes fail, He will watch over them without slumbering or sleeping.

For they were made by Him, and for Him. And to Him they will return… to run towards Him or reject Him forever.

So we pray, even as our hearts grow wide with love, and we follow their tottering footsteps with a proud and bittersweet eye — we pray that He will increase, and we will decrease in their lives: that where the limits of their parents begin, our children will fall back on the unfailing Rock of Ages more and more.

While we cannot stay with them forever, He can.

We can’t always see with surety what is best for them, but He can.

And, like a child quieted in her mother’s arms, all of us who yearn for a refuge in our Father have this solid truth: He is able to keep us in perfect peace.

So we pray that there will be so much more of Him than us, in all the days to come.

*

One day in this past week I stepped out on the porch to water our hanging plant, and paused.

This week, growing by the front door of a people alive to their limitations and more alive to Christ’s abundance, hangs this visual prayer:

flowers

 “He must grow greater and greater and I less and less.”

– John the Baptist, John 3:30, Phillips

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