My son Ezra has had a fear for years now concerning tornadoes. He’s not a big fan of thunderstorms or hurricanes but tornadoes have captured his imagination as particularly terrifying. I’m not exactly sure how this started but I recall he had a really vivid bad dream that involved a tornado five or six years ago and ever since has been really scared of a tornado destroying our home and family.
I have heard preachers talk about having the faith of a child and I am sure that I have preached the same thing on more than a few occasions but that doesn’t always seem to be the case. Both of my kids have really struggled with faith in the last few years. Maybe all kids do but my kids have actually voiced their doubts with Dina and I in many a bed time conversations. Ezra has told me several times how he has had trouble believing in God. Sometimes I feel like a lousy parent and even a more lousy pastor because I tell him that I struggle with those feelings as well some times. I want him to know God and to experience a vibrant faith but I don’t want to just give him pat religious answers that either ignore his questions or just shut him down. But sometimes that is a very scary path to take with a kid because you have to trust that God will reach them in time in their own way.
A few weeks ago we were getting ready to do a baptism service. Ezra wanted to be baptized but was really struggling with doubts about God. It wasn’t that he was hostile to God because he really wanted to believe but he was struggling with doubts. He even went up for prayer at church on a couple of occasions in the last month desiring to know God. Well he did get baptized a few weeks back because he wanted to know God better but still he struggled with some lingering doubts… that is until a couple of days ago.
Yesterday there was quite a storm that hit our area. The rain was pouring down as hard as I’d ever seen it and the thunder was rumbling all around. I was trying to cook something in the kitchen when the power began flickering on and off. Ezra was beginning to get anxious because he was wondering how bad this storm was going to get and if there might just be a tornado coming. He stood looking out our back window when I heard him scream something about a tornado hitting our house. A split second later I heard a big crash and looked out the window to see that the gazebo on our back porch had been lifted off the deck, slammed into the house and dropped on our roof. The gazebo hung off the corner of our roof as a twisted pile of iron bars and canvas. I don’t think it was a tornado but it was pretty scary. Ezra saw the whole thing happen with the gazebo flying in the air right before his eyes. After a few minutes the worst of the storm had passed and we went outside to assess the damage to our house, which was thankfully pretty minor, just some siding ripped off here and there. Later that afternoon Ezra remarked that God protected us from that storm. I agreed with him but didn’t realize the depth of what was going on inside him.
Tonight Ezra was laying down in bed next to me (he gets to sleep in my bed when Dina is out of town). I was reading a book and he decided he wanted to read something as well. He looked through several of the books on Dina’s bed stand before grabbing her Bible. He picked the Bible up and began reading the book of Ezra (of course). After about ten minutes he told me, “Dad, God makes reading the Bible fun!” I replied, “Yes He does!” Ezra then began telling me how until yesterday he just thought the Bible was a bunch of words, stuff about wisdom (which in his eight year old mind means boredom). But tonight the words were coming alive to him. He then told me that he really likes reading it and wants to read it more. It is very evident that his prayers to encounter God have been answered and that it has made a real difference in his faith.
As I ponder his words of wisdom and his encounter with God I am so grateful for the way that God shows himself to each of us in our own ways and sometimes right in the middle of our biggest fears. Reading the Bible without God is a drag and so is pretty much everything else. I love to have the opportunity to get to watch his experience of God as it takes shape. It is truly a gift and an answer to many prayers.