The summer before I started the seventh grade, my house was all abuzz with preparations for a family reunion. My mother had been cooking all day, and my dad and brother were burning down an old structure that sat on my parents’ property out in the country where we lived.
I remember that I was watching TV while everyone else worked. I’m not really sure how I got away with that. I was sitting there contemplating going to the kitchen to find a snack when my brother ran into the house and said three words that carried no meaning for me in that moment: Dad got burned.
I ran into the kitchen and followed my mother toward the back door in search of my dad. But, we didn’t get outside before he came walking through the door, holding up two badly burned hands with charred flesh hanging from them. His shirt was gone, or at least partially gone, burned right off of his body. His beard was melted. His face and shoulders were burned. And, as he walked in with his hands in a position that said calm down, everyone, he spoke: It’s not as bad as it looks.
I was horrified. Terrified. As my mother gathered her things so we could rush to the hospital, I leaned on the washing machine in the laundry room where I had seen his burns for the first time, in a half-kneeling posture, and prayed. I prayed out loud, begging God in my own childish way, Please, God, make everything alright. Please, God, make everything alright.
Many months later, everything was alright again. To look at my dad now you would never even know he went through the months of wound care, skin grafts, and excruciating pain that came along with that one little moment, gasoline on a fire.
But, I sometimes think about my reaction that day. About how little seventh grade me immediately turned to God for help and comfort in the middle of a chaotic and frightening experience. And, I wonder, now that I’m an adult who has certainly grown in my knowledge of God, His power, His goodness, why don’t I turn to Him in the first second of worry? In the first moment of panic? At the first sign of trouble? Why do I try to deal with things myself, try to fix things, try to take charge?
I want to be more like the pre-teen version of me, immediately going to my knees in surrender to the only power that saves. The only One who can truly make everything alright. I think if I will just be childish enough to do that, just weak enough, just vulnerable enough, then I will find the strength of God girding me up every time. The key is not being too proud, not being too stubborn.
And not trying to save the world with my puny-ness.
I remember the first time my dad played the piano after his accident. He’s been a gifted pianist since he was a small child, and they had some concerns about how the scarring on his hands might affect his playing. He played for just a few minutes the first time, and I could tell it hurt. But, as I stood there, looking at his taped and bandaged back while he played as beautifully as ever, I knew that God had answered my prayer.
And, the truth is, I knew even then that if my dad had died from his injuries, my prayer would still have been answered. Because God does make things alright. Always. And, we can pray to Him with confidence in the first seconds of the terror, because we can trust His plan and His goodness, even if we can’t always see the alright-ness on this side of Heaven.
So, when the fear and the pain and the worry starts, I want to be the voice that cries out to God first, relying on His strength and power instead of pretending like I have any at all. I want to hold onto the picture in my mind of me at eleven years old, leaning on the washing machine for a desperate prayer. Because that girl knew where her strength came from.