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The Rain Dancer

There’s a parable in the Bible about a rich man heading out of town, leaving his estate in the care of three servants. To one servant he gives a small amount of money, to another a medium stake, and to another a small fortune. When he returns, the two servants who’d been given at least a modicum of cash had taken their portions and exponentially increased them; but the servant with the least had buried his cash in the back yard, afraid of losing it. The rich guy, not surprisingly, was displeased and took the small amount away from the poor guy and gave it to the servant who’d been given a huge amount in the first place, as a reward for being such a good steward of his property.

When Maddie was born and I held her in my arms, I looked at the fortune God had just placed in my hands, and vowed to be a good steward with His property.

I talk about this a lot – being conscious of my stewardship of the girls’ lives. I strive to serve Him in how I raise them, and am acutely conscious of the wealth beyond rubies he’s entrusted me with. So when things start to go wrong for them, I have a couple of very predictable responses.

Take Maddie, for example: she’s having a bit of a rough time with some social aspects of school, and my heart breaks to see the burden she’s under, the grief she carries with it. And like clockwork, my thoughts are as follows:

1. What have I done wrong? As in, in what way did I mislead her or teach her poorly on something? What wrong example did I set?
2. What have I not done that I should have? That is to say, what tenant did I fail to teach her; what example did I fail to set? Where did I let her down?

In other words: how did I fail you, God, with this precious child? And what can I do to fix it?

I have been struggling with this all week with poor Maddie. I have been praying for hours each day, praying for wisdom and guidance as to how I can fix this for her. I hate to see my child suffer and wish I could rush in and fix it. I know I cannot – she’s far too old for that, and needs to work her way out of this herself. But if I had only – SOMETHING – sooner, or had not – SOMETHING – before, then she’d have been shepherded better and would not have found herself here.

This must be because of some fault in me as a mother.

I would still be stuck in this rut right now if I did not have beautiful girlfriends like my friend Heather to speak the Truth into my life, but she did over a cup of coffee yesterday, and boy have I had a point-of-view change.

There’s a popular image in many parents’ minds of their child being a seed, a tiny piece of potential to be watered and fertilized and sheltered and pruned and nurtured into full blossom. And we picture ourselves as the gardener, tending our precious seed, watering it, feeding it, sheltering it, pruning and nurturing on into adulthood. And this image is accurate – and yet wrong as well.

Our children are indeed seeds that do need everything mentioned above. But we are not the head gardeners; God is.

As my friend reminded me yesterday, God is in complete control of my kids’ lives. He’s got a plan, and He can carry it out without absolutely any help from me at all. In language I can understand, that means that there’s absolutely nothing I can do to screw them up so bad that He finds the situation – or them – irredeemable. And do you know something? For the type-A personality that I am, so worried about doing It perfectly, that’s incredibly comforting to me. I am not the gardener lovingly standing above my little sprout, sprinkling water on my precious plant and every now and then handing my watering can up to God for Him to graciously refill for me. Just think about these words from Isaiah:

“As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: it will not return empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:10-11)

Do you see that? God is the rain, here, people. I am not the rainmaker – God is. God’s word – and Jesus is the Word made flesh - rains down, and at best I’m the bottom-of-the-ladder gardener’s assistant who does the best she can with her tiny little fraction-of-a-gardening job. So what is my job?

I am absolutely still the steward in charge of a fortune; God has picked ME as the Absolute Right Person to raise these girls, and I will do it to the best of my ability, giving them a living faith and raising them as wisely as I can. But the biggest thing God asks of me is to pray. And don’t look here for an explanation of prayer and why it works: I’m still not entirely sure of the mechanics of it, only that the Bible tells us to pray without ceasing, interceding for others and lifting up our petitions. All I can do is pray – a LOT – and pray that God’s will is done through my girls. That they grow up to be the girls He has called them to be. God’s the only one who can change a child’s heart: I can give them scripture verses and model good behavior and get it into their brains, but the heart change is all up to Him.

So I’m not the rainmaker. But I’m the rain dancer, sending up my prayers for that rain to fall on their parched hearts. And I’ll be honest – when I set my feet on that path, sometimes my heart is leaden and I don’t feel like dancing. But what begins as a dance of obligation, of blind trust and teeth-gritting obedience, always turns to joy and freedom as my feet move and I know it’s not up to me. My prayers by their very nature change from a laundry list of petitions and specific requests to a simple Thanksgiving for His goodness, His plan, His perfect will.

I set my grieving heart to praying and He turns my mourning into dancing.

So that’s me. The rain dancer.


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