Lessons From my 6 Year Old Daughter
When you’ve been walking with God for a while it’s easy to feel disappointed. We may not speak about it – that may sound too much like backsliding – but it’s there. There are times when we feel like God could have done more. Like when we pray for someone but the cancer doesn’t go away. Or when we take step of faith and fall flat on our face. It’s so easy at times like these to feel like we’ve done our bit and God has simply let us down.
I’ve felt like this. Six years ago my first child was born. Like every first time Dad I expected to have the perfect baby girl. I’d prayed about it. I knew God was going to show up. Her birth would be just right. Quick and painless. A series of events meant this didn’t happen. Instead of a beautiful birth my wife needed an emergency Caesar. And my precious daughter was born with a soft palate cleft. This is when there is a hole in the roof of the mouth which makes feeding difficult.
The nurse told me I needed to get use to the term ‘birth defect’. I don’t blame them or harbour any bitterness, their care was great, but these words broke my heart. And I felt like God had simply abandoned me and ignored all of my prayers. Where was God? Why had he done this? Why hadn’t he turned up?
I don’t think I know a follower of God who hasn’t had reason to ask ‘where was God?’. This question stands in a long tradition of Christian thought. The Psalms echo this question time and time again. Christians throughout the ages have asked it. We don’t need to feel guilty about asking it. But we also don’t need to make it an accusation. God isn’t beholden to us to account for what he does or doesn’t do. Instead we need to come honestly before God and tell him how we feel. Our feelings create an image of how we perceive things but is it reality? Has God really let us down? Or maybe we had unrealistic expectations and demands? Perhaps a better question to ask is ‘What are you up to God?’
Driving home from the hospital one evening I sensed God’s presence with me. I heard his silent whisper say ‘I have not abandoned you.’ I had my questions ‘Then what are you up to? Didn’t you hear my prayers?’ The response I received was another question. ‘What is her name?’
We had named our daughter Lillian Ruth well before she was born. We chose Ruth because of the Bible character. She was a foreigner in Israel. She was a widow without children. In every way she was disadvantaged. But not in God’s eyes. He looked after her and provided for her. He was special to him. Our daughter was special to him. Her name had become a promise of God’s care and provision.
I’m not ashamed or guilty for feeling like I’d been let down by God. He understands how I felt and why. He’s good like that. I still don’t have an answer why my daughter was born with a cleft but now I don’t need one. She had an operation to mend the hole when she was 1 and now 6 years after her birth she is still beautiful. She is passionate and thriving at school. We have a special bond. I really like her. Just as the Biblical story of Ruth, I look back and can see God has provided.