"Of all the needs (there are none imaginary) a lonely child has, the one that must be satisfied, if there is going to be hope and a hope of wholeness, is the unshaking need for an unshakable God." -Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
Last week my children and I drove home from a fun afternoon spent with friends. We had gone swimming and played for hours in their home. I expected a contented crew to exit the car and enter our own domain again, weary but joyful, filled to the brim with friendship.
But one of my children was mopey and distant. His shoulders drooped and when I asked what was wrong the tears came before the words.
A deep need had been unearthed in his heart that day, and the truth is that as we talked, I knew that this was not an emptiness I could ever really fill. He was lonely in a particular way, and Mom's love, though comforting, could not quench the thirst of his soul.
We do a disservice to our children when we constantly step in and hand them every desire of their heart. We stunt them in invisible and grotesque ways when we try to distract the deep longing that is the natural byproduct of human brokenness by placing new toys, sweet treats, or mind-numbing media in a hole that God can only fill properly.
Of course we hate to see them hurting. Certainly, we want them to know we will go to the ends of the earth to answer their heart's cry for love. Undoubtedly, we want to foster gratitude for the abundant lives they have when their discontentment grows big and ugly.
But we must be careful not to silence their cry for what they can only ever receive from an unshakable hope in an unshakable God.
That afternoon, my son and I went to a quiet place and I rubbed his back while he cried bitterly. He desires a specific thing. It's clear He needs it to come from God, and I am not meant to be directly involved. He is old enough to know I can provide happiness for him, but he is also old enough to need to see God move beyond his parents' efforts.
It's time for God to begin His own story of Fathering in my son's life. Mr. Fantastic and I are beside this boy we love, encouraging him to believe God is good and that He hears the prayers of boys who bring their whole hearts to Him.
Sweet son, take your cares to the God who made you, who knows your needs infinitely, He who mysteriously writes your days in heavenly books, the One who took on the ultimate loneliness so that you could share in His holy brotherhood. Your dad and I love you, but God loves you even more.
Loneliness is a hazy blessing, and needfulness is a doorway of grace. My children must see the greatness of God as an answer to their sorrow, not just the ample pocketbook and the earthly wisdom of a mother who has coins and hope to spare.
My son is learning to cry out to God. Is there a greater knowledge than this: that only God can answer your deepest need? I think not. And so I sift my life and plant that lesson deep in the soil of my own soul, too.
Because in the end, there isn't all that much different about being a middle-aged woman and a spry young boy except maybe the view of the valley behind us. We are both going up the mountain to God, heads protected with the helmet of truth, hearts covered with His righteousness, feet shod with the gospel, bearing our shield of faith and carrying the Word of God to do battle against our enemies.
Together, we march on. My victories give him a better view of the path ahead, and his prove to me that God's faithfulness will go on long after I have reached my destination.