It was Sunday night at the Fitt house. Mommy was kneeling by Felicity’s bed. Felicity was tucked in, staring hard at the stars splashed across her ceiling. Her mind was full of people she wanted to pray for: Jimmy, Erin, Jo, “Ciny,” Pufu (Mommy still hasn’t figured out who that is, but she prayed for him anyway), Paul, Caleb, Pastor Josh, Aunty Nicole, Aunty Susie, her best little friend Malachi. Then Mommy prayed for the people on her own heart, and for a night of strength and peace.
Mommy used to pray that her little ones would sleep. The first 14 months of my mommyhood were filled with practical prayers—God, please help Felicity sleep through the night. Lord, please help her to nap—even for just a few minutes. Lord, at least help ME to nap, and don’t let the garbage truck be so loud. Please take away the fevers, colds, infections, aches, and pains. Please give my little ones the refreshing they need to be bright and happy and eager (when they don’t sleep, Lord, they are tired, angry, and unkind). Settle rest and sleep and slumber in our home tonight, and refresh our bodies with our spirits.
And night after night, day after day, the calm answer from Heaven was “no.”
And I felt angry. The more tired I got, the angrier I felt. Really, Lord? Would it be so hard to give them a little more rest? Would it be so bad for my character to have two good nights of sleep in a row? How about a little more strength, then, Lord? How about a stronger dose of joy? When exactly am I supposed to do anything except mommyhood? Should I quit school?? I was petulant, petty, and small, and my prayers became just like me.
At church we have been talking about worship, obedience, and enjoying the ride. On Sunday I stood by my pew and started singing an old song about the “refiner’s fire” and “my heart’s one desire.” I stopped singing. I heard my Sunday School teacher asking how long it had been since I saw my first love. I heard my Sunday night teacher discussing worship: the disposition of my heart—the settled attitude of wonder, admiration, appreciation, approval, astonishment, awe, and delight. Worship is not a synonym for singing, nor is it something God loves best when it accompanies a guitar. God loves worship best when it is the anthem of my life; when my life itself sings that He is worthy, mighty, great, and good. That’s when worship has the greatest power to untangle and transfigure my soul.
I often think about what my prayers do when they get to heaven. Do they join the line-up of other prayers being endlessly, desperately flung at the feet of God? How do they sound in context? There’s the mommy in Africa who ties her littlest bundle to her tired shoulders, grabs the hands of her other three skinny loves, and walks through the dust and heat, praying that she can find a doctor before her baby dies of malnutrition. There’s the mommy in Nepal whose little boy was crushed in the earthquake, whose husband is still missing, and who isn’t sure how to find water for her little girl. There’s the mommy in China who has been imprisoned for her faith and won’t see her two little darlings for years. There’s the mommy right here on Maui who holds her brave little toddler through endless chemotherapy. There are daddies praying too, and soldiers, and grandmas. There are people praying in slums, people praying through famines, people praying their way through abuse, deprivation, hunger, heat, cold, and terror. And then there is me, praying snappish prayers by my children’s clean beds as I tuck in my well-fed little miracles.
Slowly I have been learning to pray wiser prayers. If they don’t sleep tonight, Lord, give me joy. If they don’t feel well tonight, give me eyes to stay awake. If they just can’t nap, and are cranky, mean, and unrepentant, give me a gentle spirit and the patience to discipline in love. Give me Your great, compassionate heart. Make me bigger than I am. Make me holy. Slowly my requests melt into worship.
I planted a goodnight kiss on Felicity’s forehead and quietly left the room. 10 minutes later she threw up, spewing half-digested rice and vegetables across layers of blankets. A full-linen change and two late-night loads of laundry later, I was crawling into bed again when Malachi started wailing feverishly as his big, burly teeth forced their way through his swollen gums. By the time he fell asleep again, Felicity woke up crying for him. The hours inched by.
But 5:30 finally came. Sunshine trickled over the rim of the volcano. There was fresh coffee and scrambled eggs. And there was joy. I don’t know an awful lot of things, but I know my new prayers He answers with “yes.”