Moments of Unpredictability

July 22nd, 2009

Sadie’s sudden invasion of our home brought about a host of welcome changes . . . most notably to our schedule.  Now most new parents recall horror stories about how the baby turned their schedules upside down and inside out.  To be quite honest, Sadie actually brought some stability to the calendar for us.  

You see, as youth pastors, Laura and I had lived for eight years in a dead sprint.  When I first started in youth ministry, I was working as a teacher and still completing my graduate degree at the same time . . . while also playing in a band and writing a few books here and there.  Laura has always worked a secular job as well and often travels.  When we moved to Mt. Juliet and I took the full-time ministry position, our pace didn’t let up one little bit.  Two years in a building project and a new job for Laura that sent her packing for weeks at a time only added to the maddening race we were running.

Oh yeah, and then there’s youth ministry itself.  Now, every youth group is different, but Laura and I have always had a very “event-heavy” ministry.  We’ve been all over the world with our students and have always hosted a plethora of events and activities.  Most weeks in our lives have seldom seen us at home three nights in a row.  Dinners.  Parties.  Trips.  Late-night counseling sessions.  Hospital visits.  You name it, we did it . . . and loved it!

So, when Laura became pregnant, the usual speech of “get ready, your schedule is about to get crazy” fell on deaf ears.  Life got a little wackier, but our schedule actually became more standardized.  After five weeks, Sadie was sleeping through the night.  Feeding and sleeping times were predictable and for the most part, my morning and evening routines became the benchmark of my days . . . waking up the darling with a silly “Sadie song” and rocking her to sleep at night after some good old “rubber ducky” time.  Ah, life at last became a bit more predictable.

Schedule, for me, is all about predictability and routine.  Since most of my days are difficult to predict, I do my best to spend time with God in the mornings or at night.  I try not to “standardize” God . . . that pretty much destroys the idea of an organic, realistic relationship with Him.  However, I have always strived (and often failed) to set aside time with Him on a regular basis.

So, when Sadie brought the schedule stability, I began getting up early and praying before she woke up . . . which was usually around 7:00 am.  It was glorious . . . well, until Sadie up and decided to ruin my perfect new schedule.  A few months into the whole process, Sadie decided that she was going to wake up bright and early every morning around 6:15 am.  Drats!

You’ve got to understand my fragile and immature psyche about some things.  I’m the kind of guy who is inclined to attempt to create perfect circumstances for a certain moment to happen . . .and when my plans are disrupted, I’m devastated.  When I run, I make sure I have every piece of equipment on my person before setting out to account for all weather and injury contingencies.  When I sit down to write, I want to have a cup of hot coffee beside me and some pleasant or motivating music playing softly in the background.

I’m the same when it comes to prayer.  When I pray, I greatly prefer privacy.  I have trouble praying when I think that someone could walk in and see me.  I know, it’s weird; it’s just a focus thing for me.  Furthermore, when I pray, I’m an incessant pacer.  I usually turn on music, open and read my Bible, and walk back and forth hundreds of times.  I don’t know, it’s just my thing.

Sadie derailed my perfect, scheduled plan with her morning cry.  For a few mornings, I was genuinely disappointed that I wasn’t getting the “quality time” with God that I had planned to have.  But then, a thought rose within me that changed my thinking.  I felt that perhaps I shouldn’t let anything as trivial as Sadie’s early awakening keep me from approaching God just because the circumstances I had planned had changed.  So, I decided to bring Sadie into my world.

The music? Well, that was a no-brainer.  Sadie loved it.  The Bible didn’t interest her, but she had no problem with it.  The real issue was the pacing . . . how would I hold her and pace for twenty or thirty minutes without throwing out my back or boring her to tears?

The answer came in an unexpected form.  I unpacked a gift from our baby shower . . . it was one of those baby harnesses that straps around your back and shoulders so you can hold the baby against you without using your hands.  My little darling fit next to me like a glove . . . and furthermore, she loved it!  I could pace and pray to my heart’s content. 

What I didn’t expect was the spiritual result of the change.  Holding close to my heart someone so dear to me caused my prayer time to be even sweeter.  The little sprigs of her baby blonde hair tickled my chin.  She grasped my index fingers tightly with her tiny hands and responded to the sounds of my voice imminating from my chest with little breaths, coos, and yawns.  Simply put, it was nothing less than a perfect moment between father and daughter . . . and father and Father . . . and Father and daughter.  It was a holy moment I could have never predicted, planned, or conjured.  

I’ve never felt closer to my Father.  I could even imagine Him walking around holding me close to His heart.  My prayer time with Sadie (which I continued often) became delightful experiences.  It’s so easy to compartmentalize our relationship with God and attempt to fit it into the same little room we’ve always experienced it within; but God cannot be contained within our expectations of Him.  Sometimes, we must be willing to let a moment of seeming distraction become the very holy place of His unexpected presence.  

It’s funny how God didn’t seem to need my “perfect” conditions; He was already perfect enough for the both of us.  Maybe that’s why He says in Isaiah 43: 19 (NLT), “For I am about to do something new.  See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?  I will make a pathway through the wilderness.  I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.”

When it comes to God, wildernesses become pathways and wastelands become rivers . . . and prayer time with early-rising babies become moments of unforgettable grace.  Sadie eventually began sleeping until her normal time again . . . and then became too big to fit into the harness, but I’ll never forget our unexpected prayer time together.

Yeah, God’s unpredictable that way.

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~ by johndriver on July 22, 2009.

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