God Of Patience

Last week, a friend emailed to ask for prayer for her ten-year-old son. He was saying he feels like an outsider with God. He isn’t sure he believes. This is terrifying for a young parent who wants nothing more in the world than for her child to know his purpose in his Creator. 

But here’s the thing: I’m not buying it. 

I mean, I don’t presume to know this boy’s heart, but I know that, by virtue of being 10, he doesn’t know his own heart that well either. The few tender years he has lived as a believer (even if that belief has waned) are not enough to educate him on the fickleness of faith, nor familiarize him with dark nights of the soul. He hasn’t thought much about how he thinks too much. He hasn’t noticed how his soul retreats when uncertainty roars. He hasn’t sat for hours at the edge of a clearing waiting for faith to emerge like a timid doe.  

To reassure them both, I asked this mother to talk to her son about a time when he thought he was alone, only to look up and find her there, watching over him, waiting patiently for his awareness. You’ve been there, right? Flailing against some unassailable problem while a parent or coach or Messiah waits nearby to be asked for help.  

There are plenty of Biblical characters who know that feeling — people who got so caught up in the drama of their little world that they failed to notice the world’s Creator right in front of them. Think of Cleopas and his friend on the road to Emmaus. Or Mary in the presence of the resurrected Savior, thinking she was talking to the gardner.  

It’s true that sometimes God makes grand entrances. Sometimes he wants our attention and demands our respect. Moses and Pharaoh learned a thing or two about that. But often Jesus slips in unannounced, content to give us his presence without giving us awareness, and we wake up to hearts burning within us. Half of prayer, I think, is just opening our eyes to the presence.  

My friend’s son is having a crisis of faith, and that’s hard. But I have faith that his crisis won’t last. The ten-year-old crisis of faith will be a distant memory when he faces the twenty-year-old and forty-year-old crises. He’s an honest kid, and he wants to believe. And one bright day when he reaches the wizened age of 11, he’ll awake to realize that the God of patience will be there to outlast his crises in any decade.  

In the meantime, he has to wrestle a bit with the shadow of unbelief, and a sword will pierce his mother’s soul too.