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Abandoned or Not?

Every night before my son goes to bed he ends his prayers with the same request,

"Let tomorrow be a good day Lord and let me have fun."

Tucking him in,  I can remember praying the same prayers at 10 years old.  I would sort of cling to God like some sort of cosmic superhero who would turn the world for my benefit.  Lying in bed at night I would beg him to make sure that the next day was better than this one.

There were years when the prayer would become even more fervent.  In 6th grade my BFF became my bully and none of my teachers would believe the way she tormented me daily.  High School came and I thought I "fell in love."  He broke my heart and I thought I would never breath again.  More often than not in those most difficult years my head would wedge into my pillow as I drifted to sleep.  Silent sobs escaping and drenching the sheets as I drifted away.  Tomorrow God would finally answer my prayer.  I would feel accepted.  I would know that I am loved.  I would be popular.  Yet,  every day from tween hood to adulthood seemed to elude me,  even in some small way.   I found myself quite disappointed that my prayers went unanswered and the Lord seemed to forget me. I would beg and plead and nothing seemed to turn out the way I wanted.

The first couple of nights that Bunky  prayed this I really thought that it was cute.  One night, however, it hit me really hard,  "If this didn't stop, he was going to feel abandoned too."  I thought of the years I spent angry at God or worse,  just indifferent.  If he wasn't going to show up for me why should I really give my life to him?  The next night at prayers I felt the need to graciously set him straight.

I told him how I used to pray the same prayer.  I told him that Jesus doesn't promise that tomorrow will be a "good day full of fun."  Instead the Word tells us 365 different times how to deal with our fear.  Jesus tells us not to worry about tomorrow because it "has enough trouble of its own."  The book of James begins by telling us to have joy, "whenever we face trials of many kinds."  What the Lord offers is hope in the midst of a fallen world.  He offers us a companion to watch and care for us in the midst of the storms.  In the end the "bad stuff," will still come.

This was my child who grapples with his faith.  This is the one who asks me weekly, "Mom how do I know that I know that I am saved."  He is the one who hears an alter call and comes home and broods, "I have asked Jesus in, but I can't ever feel him."  I was certain that this was the time he would deflate once and for all.  If Christ didn't promise a good day,  then there was nothing.

Instead he surprised me.  I laid it all out.  The usual questions and concerns about not being able to see, touch or feel the Lord popped up.  But then he spoke these profound words, "Well, Mom if I stop asking all together,  then I know for sure tomorrow won't be a good day.  At least when I ask for fun,  I know no matter what Jesus will make it fun.  Even if I don't feel like it.  I can't stop asking."

I stopped asking.  One day I just cried and believed that God had left me.  A moment in time came when I stuck up my nose at him and decided to go it on my own.  Until the day at 19 I crashed and realized that "by myself" sucked out loud.  I couldn't do it alone and I needed some help.  At 10 my son has figured it out.  It might not be fun,  but without the Lord a crummy day is more than guaranteed.  We weren't meant to go it alone.

Yesterday,  I saw the police blotter.  There stared back at me the empty eyes of one of my "youth's" Mom.  They moved away and I lost touch. I heard where they were living.  The last time they moved to this particular place the Mom started prostituting herself.  I suspected that was the life again.  I heard her children were no longer living with her.  Now from the look on her face I knew for certain the life she was choosing.  I thought of the number of times I sat in her kitchen and prayed with her.  The times when consequences of her own actions caught up with her.  Each time she blamed God for leaving her alone.  She wanted life her way and yet in her mind it was the Lord who left.  She could never see that she was the one who chose to walk away.  As I stared at the picture I wondered if she had given up on him once and for all.

For that's what we do.  We pray and ask the Lord for fun and a good day.  We wake up and ignore him and do things our own way and wonder where he has gone.  Nowhere.  He hasn't gone anywhere, but we blame him anyway.  Perhaps, it is just life that goes awry.  Maybe someone else intentionally hurts us (in the case of me being bullied).  All of that is his fault as well.  We rubbed the lamp of prayer and wonder why the genie doesn't show up to answer our three wishes.

The greatest question in working with hurting youth is that, "God doesn't answer my prayers."   We don't always have the answers.  People die when they don't deserve to of disease and car accidents.  Divorce or abuse happens and it is out of their control.   Hopelessness seeps in.  We feel helpless.  What do we do?  I can remember being that kid so disappointed with God.

Yet,  we forget something important.   We are given the gift of life.  Hope.  Knowing we are not alone.  This is what we must point our kids to.  Like my son we must remind them, "You have to keep showing up to be with God."  See he always shows up,  but sometimes we get good at ignoring him.

Simply put we can't stop praying.   God promises he will listen.  He also promises that he wants what is best for us.  Sometimes we will never understand why.  His thoughts are higher than ours.  He sees the way we go in ways we will never see.  But,  he always promises to show up...  It might not always feel like a good or fun day,  but we are never ever alone in the middle of it.  Somedays simply knowing that is enough.

"Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart."  Jeremiah 29:12 and 13