In my nineteen, almost twenty (yikes, that's scary...) years, after being an older sister, a Sunday School teacher, a student teacher, and most recently, an aunt, I have come to one conclusion:
Kids are awesome things.
They are incredibly, amazingly different than anything else on earth. My sister, Gabrielle, is pretty much the best example I can think of of this statement (that's her with the butterfly in the picture, by the way). She, according to everyone I've talked to, is a carbon copy of me when I was seven, like she is. She has a giant personality, a contagious laugh, and a gappy smile that could brighten the worst day. Sometimes, she twirls around in circles for the fun of it and she loves to dress up...and then jump into a mud puddle. She is blissful, she is insane, and she is pretty much the most free-spirited person that you'll ever meet on the face of the planet.
She is also incredibly inquisitive. She always wants to know how you say "slippers" in Spanish. (It's pantuflas.) She wants to know if a fossa is a dog or a cat. (It's related to the mongoose.) And no matter how many of her questions you answer, she's always going to ask one more. And it's probably going to be some form of the word 'why'.
She believes that I can do no wrong, even though God knows I've disproven this theory time and time again. I'll admit it. I've been mean to her, I've been angry, I've lost my temper and yelled, and I've made her cry. And yet, somehow, five minutes later, she come right back and it's as if it never happened. We disagree, but I don't stop loving her, and she doesn't stop loving me. She just comes right back, wraps her arms around me, plants a sloppy kiss on my cheek, and says, "I love you, Schnimma!"
I've given her wrong answers to questions, sometimes unintentionally, sometimes to test her gullibility. And sometimes I can't answer her question. And sometimes I just don't give her the answer she wants. And yet, she tends to trust me. And always comes back with one more thing to ask, never doubting for a second that I have her answer.
She has a faith in me that is truly something that only a child can have. It's a little intimidating and humbling, to be honest. I have to watch what I say, what I do, how I act, every moment I'm around her because she'll follow what I do and what I tell her because I'm her big sister.
All of this, and she's not even my kid. I'm just her sister. I'm not her parent. It's weird.
I thought today about Matthew 18.
I can be a big baby, but I'm bad at being a little child. I'm bad at being humble. I don't like doing it. I won't lie.
After reading this, I immediately thought about my sister. For all of the reasons that I just listed. You are hard-pressed to find a grown-up with those qualities, particularly those of blind trust. In adulthood, we have been around the block a time or two. We have seen bad things happen. We've gotten hurt. Plans haven't gone like they were supposed to. Dreams have been shattered. Hearts have been crushed. It's much easier to be cynical and jaded and not take anything at face value. I heard somebody say once that the best thing about being a pessimist is that you're not let down when things don't go your way and are pleasantly surprised when they do. A lot of times, I fall solidly into the callous, cynical grown-up column. And, unfortunately, a lot of times that applies to God, as well.
I don't always get my answer. Sometimes, I feel like I get the wrong answer. Sometimes, I just get an answer that I don't like. And sometimes, there really just isn't an answer to the question or situation or prayer, and I'm stuck. I don't understand why bad things happen. I don't understand why things are the way they are. I don't even understand why exactly I don't understand. And somewhere, in the back of my mind, I know that God is going to take care of it. I know that with my head. But, my heart is still breaking and I'm still scared and confused. So, I don't trust exactly what it is that I believe.
I won't lie to you. You can't ignore bad things that happen. I actually don't even think that's the smart thing to do. It's reality. In the real world, things don't always go great. It's not always sunshine and rainbows. Ignoring something doesn't mean that it isn't there. It still is and denial only works for so long. Having childlike faith doesn't mean that you ignore it, dance away from it, and never deal with it again.
Well, not exactly.
Any number of my friends can tell you that I am the overanalytical one. It gets me teased a lot, and it frustrates the tar out of me. My overanalyzing frequently bleeds over into my spiritual life. I want to know why God hasn't answered. Did I do something wrong? If he didn't answer this, how do I know he'll answer anything else? If he doesn't answer anything, why do I even bother talking to him? Better yet, how do I even know he exists?
Crazy? Maybe a little. Is it a process I've seriously gone through in my brain? More often and more recently than I'd care to admit.
Like I said. Not so good with the humble, blind faith.
Blind faith doesn't mean ignorance. It just means...well, trust. Catching your heart up with your mind. Back to my sister. Does she have any assurance that I'm going to give her the right answer when she asks me something? Nope. Does she trust me anyway? For some reason, yes. Even though I've failed her before.
God hasn't ever failed me. Sometimes, I think he has. Because, let's face it. I don't know what the heck is going on in the big picture. I don't have answers. I don't know what's going to happen tomorrow, the day after that, next week, next month, or next year. I don't even know what's going to happen five minutes from now. God knows all of that and, even if I don't get why he doesn't enlighten me sometimes, he knows why it's going to happen and how. I have no reason to not trust him. I have no reason to think that his answers (or lack thereof) aren't good enough or thorough enough or that he's misleading me. Even if I don't see everything right now.
Every Christmas Eve, each person in our family gets to open one present. This year, I wrapped a shoebox for Michael and Gabrielle and put their names on it together. They had been asking for months for a Nintendo DS, and I had told them that I had gotten them something awesome for Christmas this year. So, when we got to Christmas Eve, the box with their names on it was, of course, yanked out from under the tree and excitedly unwrapped. I will never forget the looks on their faces when they opened the box.
There was not a DS inside of the box. There was, instead, a sticker with a picture of a llama on it. Also, there was a cord that plugged into the wall. My brother, picked up the cord, used it as a yo-yo for a few minutes, and attempted to mask his intense disappointment, pretending to be fine with it. My sister, however, picked up the llama sticker, jumped up from the couch, and gave me a big hug. "I love llamas!"
The next morning, when we opened presents, the first place Michael and Gabri went was to their stockings. While they had been sleeping, I had put a new present in each of them, and it was the first thing that they opened that morning. Paper was ripped off and screams of joy were heard. Because, wrapped in these new presents, was a DS for each of them. At this point, everything made sense. The plug was the charger for the DS. And the llama sticker...well, actually, that still didn't make sense. Think of it as an added bonus if you're into that kind of thing.
To overuse a cliche in closing, I've said all of that to say this. Sometimes, you get something you don't ask for. Something that doesn't make sense or seem at all beneficial. It may look a little like the plug on Christmas Eve. You may get disappointed and be ridiculously confused as to how it got to you, why, and what on earth you're supposed to do with it. But don't.
Who knows? Maybe the cord is just a facilitator for good things you get later.
After all, what good is a DS without power?