Today, Sweet Nadia consciously accepted Jesus with sincere repentance and a desire for Him to take up residency in her heart. As her mother, hearing her prayer was humbling on so many levels. I want to share the story with you, but it doesn’t come without me first telling a backstory.
For quite some time now, I’ve had the Lord remind to be humble. To not wish for the things this world offers as “success”- like a high status, acceptance by everyone around me, or even elevation above others. For me, those are easy to not want. I’m introverted so you don’t have to ask me twice to remain low key. And although I do have the very human and normal desire to be liked, loved, and accepted just how I am, the realistic side of me knows that not everyone can handle my personality & many, many, many can’t handle listening to all of my “Jesus-stuff.” But He’s also explained to me countless times and in numerous ways that I need to realize that he uses everyday moments and “average” people like me to do extraordinary things, too. Perhaps humility hasn’t quite sunk in as well as I thought it had considering I’m always searching to share the gospel far and wide when He’s given me people to share it with that are close in distance and relationship.
Humility can be hard. Deep within me, I always feel like there’s more out there that I should be doing, but I’m finally coming to understand that God’s given me a mission field right within my own home. My husband has been a Christian far longer than I have, but over the years I’ve seen firsthand how Christ has transformed his life. And he can say the same about mine. So our greatest desire is to raise our daughter to know and love Jesus, too- To hear the gospel, see it lived out, and live it out herself as she goes through her own personal journey with the Lord. I know I’ve said that she’s my mission field before, but it’s really starting to sink in. How quickly and easily it is to forget about the people who are directly in front of us when we’re in pursuit of something “bigger and better” …because being told to disciple your own household or family seems too small for the God we worship who could move mountains through the Holy Spirit within us, right? Wrong. And in the past 24 hours, I was convicted of that backwards way of thinking.
I’ve been studying Acts for the umpteenth time. It’s one of my favorite books of the Bible because the early church fascinates me! Ordinary people, meeting together over a meal, giving thanks to God, and spreading the gospel like wildfire across the regions. Stephen, the first martyr- a simple guy without some grand job title who boldly and courageously stood before the religious leaders and ripped apart their way of thinking in order to convict them and point them to Jesus, the Messiah, who they crucified. The apostles- meeting and praying and eating and loving and sharing the gospel over and over and over. These weren’t big live conferences held in arenas with tens of thousands of people taking notes from their favorite writers and speakers. These weren’t fancy, catered events that you had to mark on your calendar three months in advance just to be sure you snagged yourself a ticket during the early bird special. No, these were “unschooled, ordinary men” as scripture says. These were Average Joe’s and Jane’s who simply heard the gospel, loved Jesus, and wanted to share it with everyone they could, regardless of the cost.
I believe there’s good reason why there were conversions of 3,000 or 5,000 people in a days time. It’s because they made it simple. They didn’t chase after popularity or stay quiet while they revised draft after draft until they found perfectly articulated words. They simply allowed the Holy Spirit to do what only he can do best, and they gave God the space to work in their lives. They didn’t go big- they went small.
Smallness. That’s what I needed. And it came as no surprise to me that when I rewatched some of the sessions from the recent IF: Gathering, this was the exact topic they chose for the conference. Usually when God speaks to one person about something and has them stuck on it for a while (like me with the book of Acts + the early church), He’s simultaneously speaking to other people about it as well. I thought about going small and told Him that I’m willing to stop reaching for more in order to keep low so I don’t miss the needs right in front of me.
Nadia’s life has been my constant prayer since the moment she came into existence. To be honest, I felt ill equipped to be a mother then & I still feel ill equipped to be a mother now- but I’m doing the best I can. However, in the past few years, my worries about her future have taken up residency in my heart- and not in a good way. It’s the type of worry that causes me panic and makes me think that if I don’t do something, anything, I’m going to fail her. It’s the type of worry that makes me forget that she was given a diagnosis, not a death sentence. It’s the kind of worry that makes me forget how far she’s come because I’m only thinking about how much farther she has left to go. So God brought that to mind as I watched Lysa TerKeurst’s talk about “keeping your eye on the Master” during her turn to speak at IF: Gathering (Session 1). I wrote a prayer in my journal last night-
“Lord, I need to surrender her to You. I need to remember that You know things about Nadia and her life that I don’t. I need to trust that if You allowed her to have autism, then there’s gotta be a reason for it. Some days are better than others, but You know that I struggle so much and feel helpless because there’s nothing I can do to fix the situation. I’m afraid that she’ll never have a “normal” life. I’m afraid that she won’t learn to communicate with us any further than what she’s doing right now. I want her to make friends and not be so shut out in school. But more importantly, I want her to love You. I want her to have a bond with You that is so great and so real that she never feels lonely because she knows You are near. Give me strength to surrender my precious treasure to You. I know without a doubt that You’ve got this all under control. I just forget far too often….”
Fast forward to today. Nadia left for school happy as can be, however when I picked her up, I got a very gentle report from her teacher/aide that it ended up being a bit of a rough morning. Meaning she did some things that deserved a bit of punishment and correction. There was certainly deep remorse- she cried as we walked to the car, sensing my disappointment in her behavior. She asked me over and over if I was happy, wishing I would say yes and move on. She wanted me to turn around and hug her, feeling shameful and lonely. And as I was about to reprimand her for her behavior, the Holy Spirit gave me different words- because He knew her heart was positioned in just the right place to listen and respond.
“Nadia, I want you to listen to me very closely, ok? I need you to know that what you did was not ok. But I also need you to know that Mommy and Daddy aren’t perfect either. We mess up every single day. Sometimes we say things that we shouldn’t or we do things that are unkind to others. And everyone else you know and love is imperfect, too. But there’s good news- God loves us anyways. So much that Jesus- who IS God and was the only perfect person to ever walk this earth- came to take our punishment away and change our lives. When we do things wrong, it separates us from God, but Jesus came to bridge the gap. And He loves us all so much that He made it so simple- all we have to do is apologize, ask for Him and let God live in our heart. Does that make sense?”
“Yes, Mama. It does. I want Jesus in my heart.”
… and just like that, she prayed a prayer of genuine repentance and acceptance of Jesus’ gift. The fact that she even listened that closely was a big deal. And it was an even bigger deal to see that she honestly understood and articulated sentences to show she understood with such clarity. We were in the car at the time, but I made it to the end of our driveway before bursting into tears. Then I flung myself out of the car and into her arms.
I don’t take this stuff lightly. It makes me cry silently to myself when we’re in church, eyes closed, head bowed, and I hear hands shooting up around me from the people accepting Christ for the first time. It’s a death to life situation, and it’s a beautiful thing. And what a gift it is to know that the first “fish” I caught is my own child.
We celebrated by taking her to the bookstore to pick out her own big girl Bible, something she said she wanted to do. Granted, she cared more about the stuffed toys once we actually got to the store… but whatever. She’s five. She’s allowed to be five. In fact, I welcome her not growing up too quickly. 😉 (But we did not come home with the plush Pope… we’re not Catholic so she didn’t know who “the boy doll” was anyways. haha!)
Granted, she still had to be punished for her behavior at school, but she accepted that without complaining and said she’d apologize to her teacher’s tomorrow. (I’ll hold her to that.) But today was a good day. Better than good, actually. I surrendered her life into God’s trustworthy arms last night, and less than 24 hours later I was shown firsthand exactly what He can do when you relinquish control and allow Jesus to do His thing.
Turns out “going small” can have a big impact. Thank you, Jesus.