I love when kids ask real questions for real life. When they are searching. And when they are vulnerable and lay their feelings out on the line. I love when they are really seeking to understand. Even if that understanding is going to drag them through some tough, dark spots. Because I don’t want them to just plug along with life just because we tell them to. Questions are such a beautiful part of learning and growing. Not only for the kids, but for the parents too!
Lucy’s real question after church
After church on Sunday, (two churches actually, Grace and Claire got home the night before …so happy!…and we went to one of Claire’s friends mission farewell), Lucy asked why we teach at church that we’ll get blessings when we pay tithing. Because according to her, that’s just not true.
I could tell that this question was somehow wrapped up into what happened the night before:
A “lock-in” sleep over at the Foundation for Blind Children.
She did NOT want to go, and I could go on and on about our emotional discussions leading up to that thing, but I’ll just say after many discussions and heartache, Lucy decided she would bravely do this thing. She is dying for some social activity, and we want her to get to know some of the kids in the blind community because we think this could be such an important step for her. She doesn’t want to fit into the blind community, yet she needs them. And I think they could use a little bit of Lucy too (I’m a little biased but I think she is pretty outstanding).
She does want to do the “Teen to Work” program this summer (HUGE step that she’s open to that now), which is a four-week stay at local college campus, and a “Lock-In” is mandatory before that, so she resigned herself to this step.
She was carrying around a lot of emotion about this leading up to the big day.
I was too. Trying to be a durable object.
We said two really heartfelt prayers together in the car en route to the FBC (Foundation for Blind Children), once before we left, and once in the parking lot when we got there. In each prayer as I prayed, pouring out pleas that she would be peaceful about this and learn and grow, she whispered “and have fun,” for me to include. So I did.
Dropping Lucy off at FBC
I walked her in and she went from just saying “bye” to begging for me to take her home, until we met a boy about her age who happened to have BBS as well (little miracle), and they asked them to help set up tables and I snuck out, off into the dark night to go home alone, praying that this would be ok. Trying to hold my mother’s heart together.
She texted a few times asking me to come get her, but mostly she bravely did this thing that was so hard for her. When I picked her up early the next morning so we could get to church, she was good, that big thing under her belt. And oh, was I ever proud of her!
Back to Lucy’s question for real life…
So back to her question after church, because I think a piece of that question was wrapped up a little our prayers that she would “have fun” at the lock-in.
Because that didn’t happen, despite our most fervent and heart-felt pleas.
And her continual prayers to find friends with the same interests, and they don’t show up.
And prayers that maybe BBS will be taken away, which will never happen.
I know in her heart she was wondering: what is the use of prayers and being good if there is no reward?
Where are her answers?
Why is God leaving her comfortless? She pays her tithing, she takes notes in church, she keeps trying to turn to Him. But most of the time she feels like He’s not there. She is alone.
I love that she asked this question among the other real questions for real life that she has.
I love that it turned into a family discussion at Family Home Evening that afternoon.
I love that Claire and Grace were there to offer their own hearts on the altar.
I love that we can talk about the real instead of just the generalized “follow the prophet and it will all work out.”
Because sometimes it doesn’t “all work out” the way we want it to. This is real life we’re talking about after all.
And real life happens to the best people. We get confused because our versions of life working out are often not the same as God’s.
Faith is not transactional
Often we hear these stories of transactional dealings with God: someone made a good decision and life fell into place. Someone paid their tithing and temporal needs showed up on the doorstep. Someone who was wearing their garments was protected in a car accident. These are general ideas of some stories I’ve heard (have you heard them?). I’m sure these things have happened before. But I think they are passed around because people want to hold on to the hope.
The problem is that the majority of time life doesn’t work out like that.
Sometimes we forget that the blessing of “being good” is that you can learn to trust God. Your heart can be changed. Humility becomes a bigger part of you. This helps your foundation to become enlarged. And if you look at that from a bird’s-eye view, isn’t that so much more important? I’d love to hear other thoughts about this…I think it’s such a big question so many people grapple with!
So on that Sunday afternoon we talked through how the “blessings” we talk about getting when we’re “good” are most of the time so different from what we envision and hope they’ll be. They are not transactional. The blessings come in that changed heart when I picked Lucy up from FBC. They come in the courage she gained. The knowledge that she could do that. And that “one impossible thing will help her when the next impossible thing comes her way” (thank you Grandma Jacobson).
sometimes the gift is in the struggle
Oh, she won’t be able to take all this into her heart right now. But it was a good reminder for us all that the “gifts” from being good are that you turn your heart to God, who is all good.
You can give your heart to Him, take and seal it, and trust. Even in the hard times.
And believe that He is still there, even for those times when you can’t feel Him.
I hope some day she will look back and recognize the bread crumbs left to help her find her way. The miracles where she was carried. The silver linings even when the “blessings” look vastly different from what she hopes they will be.
And I hope she will always remember to keep asking those real questions for real life.
Because that is what will make her grow the most.