My nine-year-old daughter wanted to go to the mall yesterday. We wandered through the shops, not buying much at all, but looking, laughing, and longing for a few pretty things to make their way under the tree. When we saw the Disney Store, she dragged me in. We drooled over a particularly elaborate Elsa dress.
“I love it,” she said.
“But you’d never wear it. You hate super girly princess things,” I said.
“I know, but I still like it.”
I thought of the days when she played princess all day, when a dress like this one would have been worn to the grocery store, the library, and even to bed at night. Melancholy really set in when I saw all the toys my preteen and teenage boys will never ask for again. Stocking stuffers have shifted for those nearly-men creatures who sit upstairs and watch football together on Sunday afternoons. Lightning McQueen and Luke Skywalker have been replaced with body spray and bluetooth earbuds.
I brushed the mama-pain aside and wandered deeper into the store.
In the back of the Disney store I found a large wooden tree bearing various Christmas wishes people had written out and hung from the branches. I have some dreams of my own hung out in the world this Christmas, and I wondered what hopes and miracles these Disney customers had scrawled out on little sheets of paper. There were wishes for peace on earth and new toys and warm jackets. But there in the midst of them all was this gem:
Oh, Jaden, come on. Be on the right track, kid! And for goodness sake, get right with girls. The honesty made me I laugh. I wondered who wrote this. Jaden’s sister? His friend? Whoever it was, they’re definitely paying attention to what’s going on with Jaden. Someone wants a Christmas miracle for a mixed up, hormonal boy out there in the world. Someone wants goodness and wisdom to open up and flourish in Jaden’s life.
Someone is dreaming God’s gifts will come to Jaden.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote, “God’s gifts put man’s best dreams to shame.” And it’s true for Jaden and for my ever-growing kids and for me and you, too. We dream of cookies and a world without war, while God offers us the Prince of Peace, wrapped up in the shiny paper of the gospel. We want gifts that will make a crooked world seem better, Jesus offers us an end the tyrany of sin within us and gives us eternal life.
But first we have to believe it’s true.
Luke 1:45 says, “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill what he has spoken to her!”
And I wonder, is it that simple? Can we just believe? And be blessed? Could Jaden believe and be blessed? Could my daughter believe she’s still a princess in God’s eyes and be blessed? Could my stinky boys spray some body spray and be blessed by believing God will tend their souls through the rocky years of middle school and high school?
Is faith that easy?
When my cynical heart needs a miracle, it scoffs a little at this idea. I’d like a detailed plan, please, Lord, for all the steps from the brokenness of here to the place over there where you’ve asked me to journey. I’m just like Jaden, I need to get on the right track. But the one I’m on seems terribly comfortable, and I’m not sure I know how to switch.
After all, I’m a modern person, in control of quite a lot of my destiny most days. Netflix lets me binge watch all sorts of stories, and it’s made my patience for the resolution of my own plot lines awfully thin these days. If God could give me a preview of what’s to come, then I wouldn’t have to be so worried about whether or not I’m worthy of God’s gifts, or whether or not those gifts are worth waiting for.
But I know deep down that isn’t how this works.
Grace means we don’t have to push so hard, trying to be enough for God’s plans. We don’t have to be afraid we’ll fail, or that God will fail us. Jesus made failure mute, like Zechariah in the holy of holies. Haters gonna hate, and the Holy Spirit knows it, so He silences the doubt that could cripple us.
I don’t know how our stories will work out, exactly. I don’t know what this season holds, or what gifts God has planned for the next one. I’m not sure how all the cliff-hangers will resolve themselves, if Jaden will find his way, if my daughter will want a princess dress again someday, or how the hardest parts of the teenage years will effect my boys.
But I know God is good. I know He is Love. I know He is With Us. I know He’s enough and that in Him, we’re enough, too.
I know we don’t have to be afraid to hope and believe that He will never let us down.
We can dream that He will pour out His greatest gifts in our lives. Because in Jesus, He already has.
We have been blessed. We are blessed. We will be blessed.
Come on, Jadens of the world. Get on the right track: Believe and be blessed this Christmas. The miracle is for you.