Today marks my first full day of freedom from my 12 day work week. I feel liberated, exhausted, cranky and a bit sore from sleeping in a hotel bed night after night. This trip has been full of wonder, laughter, music, frustration, the ocean, rain, and assorted randomness that makes life fun. I’ve had conversations that have been complete perspective changers. The situations of the last 12 days have been comprised of whirlwinds, the night sky and shooting stars…. wait. No. That’s just a song.
This morning I was looking forward to catching an extra hour or so of sleep on my flight to Austin, via Phoenix. I had booked a flight so early that I was at the airport before the flight attendants. Couple this with my decidedly charming disposition in the morning, juxtaposed by the fact that I am cranky and tired and yeah… you can see why some extra sleepy time on the plane would be a bonus. However as I boarded the plane, looking for a window seat and hoping I wouldn’t be bothered, a little girl caught my eye. She was all sunshine and a bubble gum pink blanket and flying by herself.
Her name was Riley
I decided that I should sit by her, simply because she look like she needed a companion next to her. And the thought of her crushed next to someone else bothered me. (Yeah, the moment I saw her, I felt my big sister vibe kick in and it was pretty much over.) So I plopped down beside her. She offered me a sweet smile and pointed at her badly cut bagel.
“I totally screwed this up,” she said, her mouth twisted with chagrin. “It’s all skinny on this side.”
“That’s okay though. It still looks like you can eat it!” I encouraged her.
“Yeah. OOH! And there’s a hole! I’m gonna fill this with cream cheese… I’m Riley.”
That sentence right there is why I love kids. The random way in which their mind works is awesome. We proceeded to have a very serious conversation about how much cream cheese is enough cream cheese on a bagel. She was very determined to make sure that the hole in the bagel had cream cheese in it. I helped her get her bagel in order. And then I asked her who she was going to visit.
“My dad. He’s in Phoenix. He has a house. My mom was sad to see me go this morning too.”
Her eyes, the prettiest of greens, held a sadness that shouldn’t be seen in the eyes of a 7 year old. However, she quickly brightened up and told me all about the cousins that she’d be seeing, the pool she’d be swimming in and the daddy she clearly adores.
Three daddies and two mommies…?
Out of nowhere, Riley said this to me. I looked at her sweet face and and saw that she was serious. I asked her to explain.
“Well, I have my mommy here in California. Then I have my daddy, Steve and my daddy in Phoenix. And then I have another daddy…” she drew the sentence out with practiced suspense. (I won’t be surprised if there is a superstar named Riley someday. She is an epic storyteller.)
“So who is your other daddy?” I prompted, intrigued with what she would come up with.
Her sweet face smiled and she pointed her index finger in the air. Then paused. She leaned close to me and whispered, “Wait. Was Jesus married?”
I started laughing and shook my head no.
Riley thought for a moment then nodded. “Okay then. I only have three daddies and one mommy.”
She nodded. “Jesus is my daddy. He’s the best.” Riley then leaned her head on my shoulder and looked up at me with a gorgeous smile. “Did you know He’s your daddy too?”
The faith of a child
Her question took me by surprise and brought tears to my eyes. I know, in my heart of hearts, that Jesus is my daddy. I’ve grown up in church. My life has
been centered around ministry. I’ve done my best to minister, work for and love Him these 28 years of my life. But I know how often I fail in all those areas. Lately I’ve been frustrated with His people, myself included. I’ve struggled with feeling stuck. And there’s been an intense wrestling in my soul with the things He requires of me.
But Riley’s question brought back a moment of clarity and simplicity that I couldn’t get at any of the events I attended these past few days. To be sure, I’ve learned so much. I’ve been challenged, I’ve worshiped, and made new friends. Nevertheless, it was this little girl, and her gentle, unquestioning faith that brought everything into sharp focus for me.
Her home may be broken. There may be things that she’s experienced that are difficult. Things that no child her age, or any age, should experience. I don’t know. But she knew who Jesus was. That He had her and was going to take care of her. It was a refreshing reminder. And the words of Jesus about having faith like a child were staring me in the face. In His graciousness, Jesus gently reminded me that He had me. He was going to take care of me and it was time to rest in that.
So, what are ways to release ourselves from the cynicism of this world and embrace the simplicity of life? When is the last time you took a breath and looked at the world with the wonder of a child? How do you incorporate wonder and simplicity through the pressures and craziness of life?