I needed to be with the church this morning more than I've needed to be with her in a long, long, long time.
I'm facing a challenge that is bigger than me. So much bigger than me that I've cried myself to sleep the past two nights, and tonight's not shaping up to be any different.
I needed to be surrounded by other people who are leaning on God, depending on Him, and trusting Him with the details of their lives.
The music began, and I closed my eyes. I needed to be surrounded by God's people, but I also needed to just be with God. Do you know what I mean by that? I needed the strength of our corporate worship, but I needed the intimacy of my personal worship. For the first time since we started attending HRB fifteen months ago, I knew every. single. song. in the set. In fact, I didn't just know them, but they were songs that are buried so deep in my soul that I think they're almost literally woven into the fiber of my identity. I was able to enter into a completely focused and uninteruppted time of worship. And then the sermon was so good. It was a straight-forward, hit-you-between-the-eyeballs, "Jesus Loves You This Much" message. And sometimes I get frustrated by those messages. Sometimes I'm all high and mighty on my white horse shouting, "Give me some MEAT, dang it!" But today? Oh, today I was an infant, faithless and desperate, and I needed that life-sustaining milk. I needed to be reminded that Jesus loves me so much.
I cried through the last two songs, and I did my best to mop up my tears and look semi-normal by the time the benediction ended.
She walked up to me almost immediately after the service. We talked about foster care, and she offered me some incredible resources. But then she got a really serious look on her face, and tears sprang into her eyes, "I need to ask you something. We don't have to talk about it right now, but I'd love to learn how you've taught your daughter to be so on fire for God."
I looked back at her, kind of stunned. "How does she know Ruby?" I thought. I mean, I can't remember them ever having spent more than a few seconds in the same room together.
She continued, "She's amazing. She really loves God. I want my daughter to love God like that, too."
I looked across the auditorium at her beautiful toddler, sweet curls bouncing on her shoulders.
My instinct was to say, "It's not me. I haven't done anything. It's God. He's gotten ahold of her heart, and she's listened."
That's my pat answer. It's what I always say.
But today, for some reason, I gave a different answer.
"You know? I really don't feel like I've done anything special. I've just lived my faith, honestly, in front of her. When she was 3, we were hurt badly by our church. We left, and we didn't go back to traditional church until we moved to Boston."
She stared at me like, "Whuuuuut?"
"We were desperate. The hurt took us back to the studs of our faith. We were literally on our knees asking God if he was even there. I don't mean that we were debating if Jesus was the way, the truth, and the life. I mean that we were honestly looking around us and asking ourselves if God actually existed. We didn't hide that from her. She's heard us talk about the devastation in the world and ask where God is in all of it. But she's also seen us re-discover the true meaning of faith in God. She's seen us live minute-to-minute, desperate to know God's will for that day, for that hour, for that moment. When we took the easy checkboxes out of our life (Sunday morning, small group, church ministries), we got really, really serious about serving God with all of our lives.
Anyway, I'm talking too much at this point. Basically, I've just been trying to live my faith outloud in front of her."
She smiled, tears sprang into her eyes, and we made plans to meet together again soon.
I reached out and touched her shoulder, "Hey, are you okay?"
"Yeah," she replied, "That sermon just really got me."
"Oh," I sighed, "Me, too! Me, too."
I didn't realize it until just this moment, but I was too distracted to tell her what she really needed to hear. It's this:
Your deep love for God, and your desperate desire for your precious girl to know Him...those are the exact things that will lead her to Him. You are already doing everything you need to do: You are loving Him, and you are loving her. That's all He asks for. Trust Him with the rest. Ask Him, every day, to come and meet your little girl right where she is. She won't be able to help but fall in love with Him. Just like Ruby did. Just like I did. Just like you did. Trust Him, L. After all, He loves her best, right? :)
The Other L