It is cliche to say that children teach us about the Father’s love and sometimes offensive, in a world that’s ever ready to take it up. What I never mean by this is that parents have an in-road on Christ and grace and all that. That is obviously, looking around in Walmart, very much not the case. But rather, when children are spoken of, we ought to all feel included. We were all children, and we can all become like them again.
There are all sorts of cries and I’m only just learning them. My sister, a mother of four, once heard my baby crying over the phone and asked me if she needed to be changed. I hadn’t even thought of that, and she did. There is the sleepy cry, and the hurt cry. There is the angry cry. But then there is the name cry.
I find it impossible to resist when she cries my name. Rich Mullins, single, childless, knew this well when he wrote the beautiful lines, “I cry the name of the one who loves me, the name of the one on whom I call, ‘til it rolls like thunder rolling down these canyon walls.”
As hard as it is, at three in the morning— when your child’s voice is like thunder rolling— when she calls your name, you go. Your heart is moved by her remembrance and her faith in you. Helen does not question my existence or my near presence or my love, and in her confidence I stop questioning those things too. How much more so does our Father in heaven respond to his own, for he has no weakness and selfishness, as I do.
An old friend of my mother’s, Mrs. Dot, was Catholic turned Pentecostal and very into the unseen realm, and her stories had a big impact on my spiritual imagination as a child. Once as a young mother, she was home alone at night with her little boys. They were sleeping, but she woke up afraid. She went all through the house and just knew that something was wrong. She prayed for protection over her babies. I remembered this story the other night, when I had a similar feeling and prayed the same way.
I don’t have a little window in my door, but Mrs. Dot did. She opened it. Outside, she said, she saw legs, just legs. Giant golden angel legs. She said he was as tall as her house. She went back to bed and was comforted.
This story wasn’t exactly comforting to me as a child. I didn’t want giant angel legs, I just wanted my parents. But now I understand. This is the beauty of stories: Sometimes they wait in the wings. In this world we will have trouble. I have little people in my care. I have real enemies, and so do they. They need me and I need something behind me, the bigger the better.
The good news is that I can cry the name of the one who loves me— and if I forget this, the first of my earthly lessons, that’s alright— he is faithful to remind me.