It started like any other Sunday morning. Well, except for having three Little People to get ready to get out the door, but that’s for another post.
During worship this week there was an opportunity for those who were feeling a special need for prayer to raise our hands so those around us could gather to pray. As I lifted my hand in response, I felt my pre-teen granddaughter’s arm slide around my waist. Then one by one little ones started gathering: Bekah, Lydia, Jimmy, Wyatt, JJ, Elsie, Annie, Brianna, Joey.
The tears that had been brimming during the current song we were singing spilled over into stream after stream down my face. As one tear after another fell onto little Elsie’s hair I heard a couple of sniffles. The tears of some of Redeemer Church’s youngest reminded me that I was loved by 6 and 8 and 11-year-olds who felt compassion for Granma/Mrs Phillips because she needed prayer. I felt understood. Hopeful. Humbled. Snuggled. Noticed. Whether they actually prayed for me or just wanted to hug me, God’s love for me was on display in a way I hope to never forget.
I’ve learned to gently ask myself, “Why am I crying?” because the answer isn’t usually what I think. I thought I needed prayer because I’ve been feeling weary — but God knew I needed something else; something I didn’t even know would be so helpful.
I needed to know that the brokenness and struggles through which I have walked have a purpose beyond myself. Since before I had children I’ve longed to be one of those who would “tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the LORD, and his might, and the wonders that he has done” (Ps 78:4). Aging is teaching me that telling younger generations “the glorious deeds of the LORD” isn’t just recounting the story of how God healed me from infertility; rehearsing the miracle of His provision to our former church that Sunday morning in the 80’s when a one-time offering of nearly $400K from a group of singles and young families found old and young dancing and singing for joy; or sharing about a high school revival that saw dozens of tail-end-of-the-hippie movement teens saved in a matter of months, including their now Dad, Papa, friend and/or pastor.
Recounting God’s faithfulness and power also means seeing this old lady raise her hand on Sunday to ask for prayer because she’s been going through some tough times and has learned that God is faithful to help, comfort and bring hope to the struggling day after sometimes dark, exhausting day.
Sunday morning reminded me that help doesn’t always come in expected ways. Help came not from the articulate prayers of seasoned saints or a comforting word of encouragement from someone operating in the gift of prophecy. Rather, I was helped by the caring hands of children who noticed a lady they love silently saying, “I need help.” With childlike faith they came and with outstretched hands they touched and comforted me. Their compassion was a demonstration of the love of God and evidence that the next generation is also reaching to Him; the One whose might and power is gloriously made known to a crying lady on a Sunday morning in a little church meeting in a middle school in Orlando.
Actually, that day was like any other Sunday morning. God showed up and met with His people — including little ones who will someday take their place as pillars in His church here or elsewhere. Oh, I hope to be there to cry through worship they lead and take notes during messages they preach and snuggle with babies they’ve birthed…and likely have them surround a more wrinkled, littler old lady they look down to who raises her hand for prayer again. But if I’m not here I will be among the cloud of witnesses cheering them on and worshiping at the feet of the Savior they now serve.
Lord, please give me the strength to tell them about Your power and glory and might — both with testimonies of miraculous things You’ve done in the past and by showing them that I get scared and weary and need help just like them.
Redeemer Church was planted to bring hope. This pastor’s wife and grandmother and teacher of some awesome kids in children’s ministry sure is hopeful for a generation who is willing to put down their stuffed animals or stop whispering to their buddy to come and pray for a needy grandmother.
Thank you, Lord, for loving me through the least of these.