Nora is my daughter, and at the ripe age of almost 2-years-old, she’s already teaching me tons of lessons I’ll never forget.
One of the really cute things my little girl does is get up real close to my face and strain to see her reflection in the glossiness of my eye ball. “Nora? Nora?” she’ll ask until her face lights up in a big sort-of-toothy smile when she focuses in on the image opposite her. Nora does the same thing when she sees herself in a mirror or on the window of my truck, but there’s something different about watching her look at herself in my own eye.
It reminds me of the passage in Zechariah where God’s children are called the apple of his eye. A Hebrew turn-of-phrase, it’s portraying the same thing that my little 23-month-old lives out periodically on my lap. It’s only possible because she is so close to me. The phenomenon cannot be experienced from across the room. The mutual joy we share is prohibited by distance. The rush of happiness I feel has little to do with my eye and much to do with her nearness. She has no idea what a joy it is for me to watch her find herself in me. She understands so little—almost as little as I understand God’s joy in me finding myself in Him, something that is only possible if I’ll let myself get close enough.
This lively, slightly stubborn, overly-talkative toddler that my wife and I enjoy each day has taken to singing. She knows all the favorites, from “I Caught a Little Baby Bumblebee,” to “This Little Light of Mine” and perhaps her favorite, “The Itsy Bitsy Spider.” I have a favorites list of my own, and it is topped by the oldie-but-goodie “Jesus Loves Me.” On occasion, I’ll ask my daughter to sing it, and she will respond with a big, resounding “NO!” At moments like these I wonder if my daughter will reject Christ as her Lord and Savior and grow up to worship Satan. Then I take a deep breath and realize she probably just missed her nap. And when she does sing it, boy does she sing it!
She knows all the words, and while she doesn’t pronounce them all perfectly, she gets all the important stuff out there. She even tries to do the actions. She folds her little hands together and opens them up when she says “Bible,” and she even tries to make nail marks on her palms with her index fingers, though undeveloped fine motor skills prevent this from being done with much accuracy.
My favorite action though, and one she never misses, is when she says “me.” Not once in the history of her personal recitals has she flubbed that motion. It’s always one—and sometimes both—pointer fingers jabbed straight into her chest. I know it’s an easy motion, even for a little human that still wets her pants, but I can’t stop from theologizing it.
When did I start forgetting that Jesus really does love me? When did I start believing my performance was my validation or my image my salvation? What happened to the good old days when I believed Jesus loved me so intensely, and the only reason for that belief was because the Bible told me so?
Tonight before I put my daughter to bed we sat down in a comfy chair and had some milk. She was equipped for bed time with her bunny and her blanket. I handed the milk to her, and she reclined back on my chest. Like always, she tried to not drink her milk and instead strike up a conversation (they usually have something to do with my toes or incessant “What’s that?” questions). I gently reminded her it was time to relax and stuck her cup back in her mouth.
Right before her milk ran out she started slapping my hand, which I had rested on her belly. I suggested we hold hands, and she obliged. However, when we hold hands in our family, she takes it as a cue to pray. She looked up at me with her big, blue eyes and petitioned me.
“Pray,” she asked, not certain if she was allowed to talk.
“Yeah, we can pray,” I said. “Why don’t you pray?”
She bowed her head but kept her eyes open, looking up to see what was going on or perhaps for inspiration. I kept my eyes open, too. I wanted to see what she would do.
“Dear Jesus,” she said in language perhaps only recognizable to people who live with her. “Thank you for food (we weren’t eating anything, but what the heck, she’s not even two), thank you for fam-ry hugs, thank you for daddy, thank you for mommy, thank you for Nora, thank you for milk (she held up her milk at this point, like a prized trophy given to her straight from heaven). AMEN!”
In that moment I did not cry because I’m not much of a crier about such things. Perhaps I’m heartless, I don’t know. But I did wonder at the beauty of my little girl and at my own arrogance to think that I could actually teach her something about life and faith when she already has it all figured out.
Jesus said let the children come to me, and I think it was so that He could finally have someone near him who didn’t approach him like a riddle to figure out. I think He wanted to sit one of those toddlers on His knee and let them find themselves in his eyes, give them a big hug, and maybe say a little prayer.
May we all pray for Nora-like faith that puts us smack-dab in the lap of Jesus.
Amen to that.