Four-year-old Lukas studied the obstacle in our way. Stroking the ancient bark like it were a pet dinosaur, my inquisitive little boy asked, “Mom, is this tree dead?”
“Yes, honey,” I replied and pointed to a jagged charred smudge that tattooed the tree trunk. “It looks like this tree was struck by lightning.”
Lukas’s deep blue eyes grew serious. He ran his petite fingers along the rough wood as his little sister danced in a leaf pile behind us. Suddenly, my serious one brightened: "God can bring this tree back to life."
I nodded, encouraging his child-like faith.
Emboldened by my affirmation, my firstborn flashed me a confident grin. "Well, why are we just standing here, then?" he asked as he reached for the toppled tree. "Let’s ask God to do it!!”
My four-year-old placed his sun-kissed hands on top of that dead oak and fervently begged his Heavenly Father to make the tree stand again.
Satisfied, Luke plopped in the dirt. Then, this child of mine who hadn't even the patience to wait for a bag of microwave popcorn to pop without complaining of the "wasted time," folded his arms as if he had eternity at his fingertips and he settled in to wait for his Creator's response. No mighty rumbles answered my son's sincere faith. No invisible hand reached down and stood straight the massive tree.
I watched in doubt and tried to think of a way to steer my child's attention elsewhere.
Finally, I convinced Lukas that we should climb over the obstacle and continue our hike. I assured him that we could check back when we circled around to go home..
With a sigh, my prayer warrior patted the fallen trunk, and we finally moved on.
For the remainder of our hike, Luke chattered happily about how much fun it was going to be to see that tree standing tall again.
In the meantime, I held my own bold and mopey conversation with God. What would you like me to do about this, Lord? I've been trying so hard to plant seeds of faith in my child and NOW he thinks you're going to raise that ridiculous tree from the dead. What would you like me to tell him when we backtrack and Luke discovers that his prayer has gone unanswered?
Eventually, I decided to take matters into my own hands. In the name of protecting my young son's faith, I feigned confusion and steered us back to the parking lot via another trail.
That evening, over dinner, Lukas told his daddy all about our hike and the fallen tree. He recited his resurrection prayer for his entertained father and then reported just how long he had sat in the dirt waiting on God's answer (I waited for at least ten hours, Dad!).
With a twinkle in his eye, my husband asked, “Well, did God answer your prayer, buddy?”
“I don’t know," Lukas responded with a defeated shrug. "Mommy took us back to the parking lot on a different path."
The dinner table chatter grew quiet. Rob threw an arm around our disappointed boy and leaned over to whisper in our firstborn's ear. Loud enough for me to hear, my husband said: "I guess Mom just missed her chance to see a miracle today."
It's been nearly a decade since that memorable day. My firstborn rarely pads along leaf-lined trails with me anymore. These days, he'd prefer to beat me in a game of drive way basketball or leave me in his dust on a high speed bike ride. I'm not even sure my teenager remembers the day he asked God to resurrect an old tree. But I've revisited that scene many times over the years, just as I've pondered my husband's sagacious words.
Did I miss a miracle that day? If we had turned around as I'd promised, would we have found that toppled oak reaching for Heaven? I'll never know. In her landmark study, Believing God, Beth Moore claims, “God is so much more than we have yet acknowledged or experienced. He is capable of tremendously more than we have witnessed. I have become utterly convinced that we see so little primarily because we believe Him for so little." I'm guilty as charged. I knew God COULD answer my little boy's prayers on that warm autumn day. After all, He'd raised his own son from the grave. I just didn't believe that He would. But my true crisis of faith wasn't over a fallen tree. It was over my child's heart. As ludicrous as it now seems, on that day years ago I didn't have faith enough to let my child be disappointed by God.
The Lord and I have traveled a few more trails together since that interrupted hike. And by His grace, I have learned that when I try to shield my children from the sovereignty of God, I cheat them out of the thrill of God. Worse yet, in my attempts to protect them a little from an unpredictable God, I offer them a little and predictably boring god. Either I believe in the Mighty One on His throne or I've relinquished Him to a box built with doubt. No, God cannot be harnessed. That is what makes Him God. And that is what makes Him fully capable of calming the sea or calming my heart, of raising dead trees or raising mighty prayer warriors. Our God of miracles can do "more than we ask or imagine," but we'll miss His daily wonders if we don't first nail our doubts to the cross and then place our children in His outstretched arms.
The Overflow: “I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe even if you were told.”