When I was a kid, Vacation Bible School was the highlight of my summer. I still remember how the slightly watered-down KoolAid tasted when it washed down exactly two sandwich cookies from the local grocery store, each lovingly placed on a white napkin and eagerly gobbled up by children who were that special brand of midsummer morning starved.
I remember how much I looked forward to painting the red bricks on the outside of the church with water, the brilliant notion of some long ago Bible School director. The buckets and paint brushes and cool, cool water were a big part of my summertime dreams as a child.
This past week, in the grand tradition of many, many summers long past, our church was filled to the brim with excited children. When you are a grown-up,VBS is all at once the most fun thing you do all summer and also the most exhausting. In the famous words of then four year old Sawyer one final day of Vacation Bible School, when I am done with VBS, “my hair is tired.” I don’t know if I’ve ever heard a more perfect description of how one feels on that last day of a long week of over-the-top enthusiasm and Holy Spirit-inspired patience. Maybe it’s the consecutive days of restraint that is really what so completely wears out a VBS worker.
This was Adelade’s first year to be a VBS volunteer. She effectively graduated from Vacation Bible School last year, after years of loving every second of it. It was sad for me, thinking about how quickly the time goes, about how she had passed a milestone that we could never really return to–the days when she would wake up with the sun, smiling before her eyes were even open, ecstatic in the first seconds of consciousness because she knew it was a VBS day.
This year I watched as her long and lean frame took the stage, helping lead the children as they sang and learned the motions to the fun music. For the most part I didn’t think much about it. Her enthusiasm was still off the charts. Her smile never waned. She was having great fun. But then in one, tiny mama moment, I stood at the back of the sanctuary, watching one of the more mischeivous boys from my class walk, no, run, no, tumble to the bathroom, and I was mesmerized by my first-born daughter, standing there at the front of the room. It was only a few seconds before the spell was broken by the tumbleweed of a boy who was barrelling toward the restroom. But, in those seconds I felt like I was seeing the beginnings of who Adelade really is and who she is to be.
The next day I sat with my rowdy little class and watched them listen intently while she taught them about the hope we have in Christ. She was so sincere, so true and sure as she spoke of the love of Jesus, and I found renewed hope in my Savior just by watching what He is doing in my dear little girl.
Thirteen years old. Vacation Bible looks different now. It looks like a lanky teenager and braces and teacher break room privileges for my own little Adelade. And as her faith and understanding grows, I’m learning that a merciful by-product is the growth of my own faith and understanding, just watching in awe while Jesus forms her into a girl after his own heart.
This week she managed to meet David Platt. When she spotted him in the hallway of a huge convention center, she gasped. She literally gasped. The president of the International Mission Board was standing right in front of her. So, she smiled up at him with that silver-bracketed precious grin that turns up at the corners. They talked about seventh grade and Secret Church, and she walked away encouraged.
And tonight she came through the door with red eyes, tears still flowing as she tried to explain things that words don’t quite have the capacity to express. She had prayed over young missionaries at their commissioning service, and all the while God was speaking to her own heart. The same David Platt who had been so kind to her yesterday was now on a big platform, speaking about calling and mission and the way that the Holy Spirit will sometimes grab you so tightly that you run out of vocabulary to describe what it feels like.
And in all of this she grows. She changes in ways that I never could have predicted back on those simple summer mornings when she awoke with a grin and a VBS song in her heart. And I change, too. I learn how much more she belongs to Christ than to me. I learn to bind my wandering heart to a Savior who calls little girls and makes them courageous Christ-followers. I learn to loosen my grip on my teary-eyed, God-gripped daughter, remembering once again that God’s hand is sufficient. I will trust His hold on us. He is good, and He is working here.