I just experienced one of my poorer mama decisions right alongside one of my proudest parenting moments. I’ll set the stage:
Ryan has been gone for a week, and God has truly provided the boys and me with the patience and grace we’ve all needed to get through this time...mostly (at the beginning of the week, we were rushing into the car to make it to school on time and Liam said sweetly, “Remember, Mama, you are working on not getting so frustrated in the mornings.”)
But today all that patience and love has been wearing a little thin. For the last two days we have been pretty housebound, because my darling Sawyer boy has strep throat. Oh boy, has the stir-craziness set in. This evening I dropped Liam off for a playdate, and the car ride home with my two remaining boys was full of screaming, crying, begging, and whining--mostly coming from the boys, but I may have joined in a time or two. By the time we got home, I knew we needed a change of scenery. It was only 6:30, so I got into my running clothes, bundled up the boys, strapped them in the stroller, put Harper on the leash and set out for an adventure. I headed into the neighborhood behind us, because it is mostly uninhabited and feels like you’re deep in a beautiful forest. My BRILLIANT plan was that we would explore this wilderness, I would sneak in a little exercise, and we would come back home full of endorphins. I thought we would for sure be back in 30 minutes before it got too dark.
At first it was truly blissful. The boys squealed in delight as we were literally surrounded by prancing deer, and I was running (downhill) with what I imagined to be the ease of a marathon runner. I was teaching Harper how to run alongside the stroller, and she was catching on pretty fast. I was so pleased with us that I went too far. Then a lot of things went wrong. First, it got dark almost instantly. Then, I got a little turned around and couldn’t figure out which road curved back toward our house. Finally, my phone died. I pushed on through the dark until I found a road that would lead back to our house, but I realized it was the one that was a steep uphill for over a mile. By this time, my legs and forearms were shaking from my overzealous running before, and I was feeling very foolish and worried about us being far away from our house...in the dark...in cougar territory...without a cell phone (I’m ashamed as I write this!) This neighborhood’s all-natural ambiance means no street lamps, so I started pushing my double stroller and dragging my exhausted dog up the hill; I knew I wouldn’t be able to find our way back to the flatter path.
When I started huffing and puffing right away, Sawyer said confidently, “Mama, God is always by your side.” I chuckled in between gasps and sputtered, “Thanks, baby. Just pray that Mama stays strong enough to push us up this hill.” And even though I had been mostly joking, Sawyer bowed his head and prayed a prayer that blew me away. He said,
Thank you for giving Mama the strength to get us home.
And thank you for not letting anything eat us...like cheetahs or tigers or pythons or bears.
Of course, God did give me the strength I needed to get us home without getting eaten (it helped that Sawyer kept shouting, “GOD IS ALWAYS ON OUR SIDE!”). And I definitely got some exercise! But what I’m going to take away from this adventure is what I learned from Sawyer’s prayer. Sawyer didn’t say, “Please give Mama the strength,” he thanked God for giving me the strength before he actually had. He prayed with audacious and un-jaded assurance that God would answer his prayer. How often do I pray with hesitation? How often do start my prayers with a polite and demure, please-sir-if-you-have-the-time kind of entreaty? Life has taught me that my prayers do not always get answered the way I want them to, but that does not mean that I should stop praying with the assurance that God will move through my prayer in order to work all things for good for those who love him.
The other part I LOVE about Sawyer’s prayer is the creativity. He didn’t know that we were actually in cougar country and not cheetah-tiger-python-bear territory, but in his mind all things are possible. As I’ve gotten older, I have gotten less creative about what I am praying for and how I believe everything can work out. I start to think that I'm just praying against sadness or feeling discouraged or people's hurtful actions. I forget that I am praying against an active enemy who is constantly trying to take me down. My prayers are too tame in light of the great spiritual battle that is raging all around me. I also think there are a limited number of solutions to the problems I face. I forget that I serve the same God who had bread rain from the dessert sky when his people were hungry, who crumpled Jericho’s fortress just by having his people do a marching band routine around its walls, who had Jonah learn his lesson in the belly of a giant fish, who had a virgin give birth to our Savior and who raised Jesus from the dead. I serve a creative God who’s creativity knows no earthly bounds.
Once again, I have learned something incredible from one of my sons. I want to pray more like Sawyer--with audacious assurance and creativity. I want to pray with confidence in my God who is always on my side.