Thursday, August 2, 2007

The Hard Part of Saying Yes

For some reason, Jack has never liked Veggie Tales. (Or, I should say, not as much as I do.) But while we were away last week, one morning when it was really raining we put on the Veggie Tales JONAH movie my mom had given him at Christmas. And, voilĂ ! Now he’s a huge fan. I guess it just took the retelling of a favorite Bible story to help him past the confusion of talking vegetables.

Ever since he was a baby, I’ve sung songs to Jack, and as soon as he was able to talk he started to ask for songs by name. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star was the Star Song; the Alphabet was the ABC Song; Old MacDonald Had a Farm was the Farm Song, etc. I guess he thought there were songs about everything because he would ask me to sing about random things -- whatever he was thinking about or looking at right at that particular moment. It was the winter Sophie was born, and we were staying in a furnished apartment in Virginia. On the wall in Jack’s room was a print of a painting with lots of different creatures under the sea. So one night at bedtime he asked, “Mommy, sing me the Whale Song.”

The only thing I could think to sing about was Jonah and the whale! What to do? I had to make up a song that told the whole story. He asked for it again the next night and the next night and the next, and now it’s among the standard line-up of night-night songs at our house.

At the moment Jack’s at that stage of asking “Why?” about seemingly everything under the sun, so in answer to his questions about the meaning of the words in the Whale Song, we’ve ended up talking several times about how God asks us to do things for Him and about our choice to either say No, as Jonah did at first, or Yes, as he did after he had time in the belly of a whale to rethink his decision. We’ve talked about the fact that our willingness (or not) to obey God affects not only us but other people as well. And about how important it is to always say Yes, no matter what God asks us to do or where He asks us to go. Until now I’ve tried to leave it at that. I figured that explanation of Trust and Obey was heavy enough for a four year-old!

But over the weekend, our friend who lives in Afghanistan was here, and Jack fell in love with her all over again (which is really sweet because she was a favorite when he was little, but he can’t remember that). When it came time for her to leave, Jack got really quiet. He came up to me, put his head down and said softly, “Why does she have to go away?” Poor guy. We’ve had lots of people coming and going in the last year (London is on the way to everywhere!), as well as all the hellos/good-byes with our beloved families, and now Jack is starting to be able to articulate how he feels about it.

So I got down on my knees, held him in my arms and said, “Do you remember our talks about how important it is to say Yes to God? Saying Yes is always, always, always the best thing to do, but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy. Sometimes it means we have to live far away from people that we love. When God asked (this friend) to go to Afghanistan, she said Yes. Right now we feel sad because she’s leaving us. We wish she could stay right here, but if she did that she wouldn’t be obeying God. And the people in Afghanistan wouldn’t have the blessing of having her there among them. We can pray for her while she’s gone, and we’ll look forward to seeing her again next time. But it hurts our hearts to see her go away. This is the hard part of saying Yes.”

I think I said this without crying, which is itself a minor miracle because the pain of being separated from loved ones due to following God is one of my biggest pet peeves with Him. (In addition to all the other times I've moaned on this very blog about this very thing, today is the birthday of my dearest friend from Asbury College. When I called the Bahamas and heard her voice on the other end of the line, I was suddenly both ecstatic to talk with her and devastated that we haven’t been living next door to one another every single day of the past 18 years. To think that she has only seen my children in pictures! I hate it!)

But then I picked up a book I recently borrowed from some friends at church. (We have a wonderful county library system here, but there aren’t many Christian titles.) Several friends in Cyprus had recommended it a few years ago -- it’s called The Heavenly Man. As I began to read the true story of Brother Yun’s persecution for the Name of Jesus in China, I realized that I haven’t even begun to understand how hard saying Yes to God can be!

I’m not sure at what point Jack’s questions will address the expected reality of suffering for our faith, but when they do I pray the Holy Spirit will give me wisdom in how I answer. Right now I need to get back to reading this book. I have a feeling I’ll have more to say tomorrow!

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Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs. (Jonah 2:8 NIV)

To obey is better than sacrifice. (1 Samuel 15:22 NIV)

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