I met an amazing three year-old young lady yesterday.
We were at an outdoor festival for kids – a great event that some dedicated volunteers put on each year at our church. There were fun rides, a rock climbing wall, great food – even a tv in one of the food tents broadcasting a college game that was pretty important to a number of people across Tennessee…at least until they saw the score.
There was also a great young family – an engaged dad, a very BUSY mom, an equally busy and precocious pair of siblings – a boy of two; the amazing young lady just a couple weeks shy of four – and a very young little dude of less than a year with great big eyes, curious hands that reached for anything nearby, and a seemingly unending supply of drool, thanks to some incoming teeth. We met our first-time visitors as they were sitting down to enjoy some food.
As Mom and Dad were fully engaged with the two younger kids, Dad reminded the oldest to “say your prayer.” And so she did.
Sitting directly across from me, with eyes wide open underneath a terrific head of curly and untamable hair, she politely folded her hands and proceeded to offer her prayer. Looking directly at me and others around the table, she reverently and appropriately gave thanks “for Momma and Daddy, for a nice day and lots of fun, for my food. Thank you for EVERYTHING, Jesus! Amen!!”
Folks, that’s just outright awesomeness in motion right there.
In that moment, I was struck by how precious she was. And I was impressed by the maturity of her prayer, given that I had just learned that she is two weeks shy of her fourth birthday.
As the day went on and the weekend has progressed, I haven’t been able to shake the thought of her – and of the lesson she represents for each of us.
You see, I think kids come into the world as a blank canvas – a canvas upon which the collective teaching, modeling, and influence of their community has great influence as their “portrait” within the world is determined. Clearly, this kid’s parents understand the art of parenting.
And yet, I wonder…when she is 12, 16, 27, 35, or 52…will she be so bold?
As an adult, will she share her faith and values as openly? With eyes wide open, facing those within her surroundings, and speaking in a clearly audible tone so as to ensure that she conveys her innermost thoughts and prayers to them – even when they are strangers?
If I had to venture a guess, I suspect that she will be like most of us later in life – quietly offering a thankful prayer while “keeping it to herself.” And therein lies the point – it’s not intended to be kept to one’s self, rather, it is to be shared with Him and all who are within her reach.
And yet, over time, the world will make its attempt to encourage her to “keep it to herself” so as not to “disturb” others or meet conflicting perspectives. The Court of Public Opinion will likely rule along the way, subtly and not so subtly trying to turn an obviously warm heart of flesh into a cold heart of stone.
Of course, there is hope. As clear as it is that she’s already on a solid path with the guidance and instruction of good parents, she is better positioned than many. And, so long as she continues to have the strong support of good parents, extended family, teachers, and her community, and continues to pursue her relationship with Him, she will be just fine.
But, when she sits down in a public place as a well-prepared adult, will she be as bold as she was yesterday?
Let’s hope that, when confronted with that decision, she continues to shine her light into the world…one grace at a time.
Grace and peace to all for the week ahead. Be bold. And…
Keep it Lit.