Abandoned Pets, Lost Lego and the Prospect of Nuclear Annihilation

This past week, our young son showed me once again how very far I have to go in terms of having a vibrant prayer life. He did so, unwittingly, by simply running to prayer himself. In the course of our weeklong family vacation on the coast of Maine, he had two very specific prayers answered…so quickly, in fact, that he had barely finished them when they were answered.

Prayer #1 was for the safe return of an ancient family pet, accidentally left behind at the beach while packing up…and far too old, blind and frail to care for himself outside, especially after nightfall. Prayer #2 was for the equally-unlikely return of a recently-purchased Lego set that had been left behind, shopping bag and all, while visiting a bookstore the day before. In both cases, spaced as they were a couple days apart, our son was quick to acknowledge 1) his own powerlessness, 2) the overwhelming odds that either situation would be favorably resolved through mere human effort, and 3) that he had a loving heavenly Father who cares deeply about any and all burdens pressing down on his soul.

Prayers "Large" and "Small"

Prayers “Large” and “Small”

In his eyes, prayer – “letting God know what’s going on down here” – was the logical first step when faced with a challenging circumstance…not a final desperate act once all other “practical” means had been exhausted.

After a night spent at the local pet rescue facility, “Mickey” was once again in the loving care of his owner, a bit stinkier and frazzled for his ordeal, but otherwise none the worse. Literally, the announcement that he had been located boomed through the house as our son was upstairs pouring out his heart to God; “Please don’t let anything bad happen to Mickey!” As adults, we tend to point to the “obvious” circumstances surrounding this particular deliverance and are tempted to call the answered prayer a mere coincidence; Mickey was located precisely because the adults on hand had scrambled, searched high and low and placed frantic phone calls to local police. However, the truth is that the old pooch had been missing long enough that many of us had begun to suspect that Mickey might wash ashore with the next high tide, and the good news arrived only as a child’s impassioned prayer was being offered.

A couple days later, several members of our vacationing crew rode into town for a few hours of lunch and shopping. Naturally, a new package of Star Wars-themed Lego was one of the first items acquired, as is right and proper. However, this important purchase was mistakenly left behind as the shopping crew reassembled to leave a local bookstore and head off to another location. This bit of negligence was not discovered until the next day, so once again our son headed off to his room, more quickly this time, to let God know what was going on. Again, as the words were literally coming out of his mouth, his older sister got off the phone with one of the bookstore employees, who had “just happened” to notice his bag sitting undisturbed, right where he left it, several hours previously; no one had touched it, and the employee had “just happened” to come in early for her shift the next day, pick up our phone call and instantly make the proper connection between lost item and rightful owner.

In both cases, our son responded to his answered prayers with relief and gratitude, yes, but also with a confidence that let everyone around him know that he had zero doubt that God had listened to his prayers. No, he couldn’t be certain that Jesus would choose to return either Mickey or his Lego set, but he seemed to know that whatever happened would be firmly inside God’s will and, ultimately, for his benefit. I’m not sure that our son would be able to quote Romans 8:28 if asked, but for now, anyway, his heart is so locked onto this way of life that I’m not sure he needs to.

Just this past weekend, there was a great deal of “saber rattling” from both the North Korean regime and the White House. Ominous, animated missile graphics produced by national news media outlets clearly demonstrated that millions of human beings might well perish in a nuclear holocaust should the situation continue to escalate. Just like my young son, I was quick to acknowledge my own powerlessness to do anything about the situation. Just like my young son, I could see that the odds of this situation being resolved peaceably were diminishing. Entirely unlike my son, however, I failed to pour out my heart to my loving heavenly Father. My son goes to God for a family pet and Lego; I somehow manage to keep my distance even as the prospect of global annihilation moves a bit closer to becoming a reality.

Sunday morning, I drove into town to get a large cup of Starbucks for my lovely-but-dangerously-caffeine-deprived wife. As it happened, I was wearing my favorite Darth Vader T-shirt at the time, the one that reads, “Vader is coming…look busy.” The barista who served me did a double take and quipped, “Well, that’s another interesting way to look at the possibility of Armageddon.” His smile was a bit too practiced; it seemed to me like it failed to entirely cover up a very real sense of fear that he might not make it to 30. Confident, not in the stability of either regime but in the will of the Lord never failing, I responded with something like, “You know what? It’s all going to work out. Our world has survived worse than this.” It was only as he was handing me my change that it finally dawned on me that I had not recently prayed, not even once, for the souls of Donald Trump, Kim Jong-un and the millions (perhaps billions) whose lives could be snuffed out by one wrong decision on the part of either world leader.

My heart is unbelievably hard. Why was I so quick to believe that both our dog and my child’s Lego set were forever lost? Even as I joined my son in his prayers, it was impossible to suppress an inner voice telling me that we were both wasting our time. I would not characterize myself as “slow to give thanks,” and I seem to be known as someone who regularly prays; people who know me often cast their glance my way when an obvious time for prayer is at hand. Even so, I am more likely to swipe around on my iPhone for more headlines than I am to beseech God when world leaders engage in a foolish, high-stakes game of brinksmanship. My theology tells me that we are to go to God with absolutely everything, to receive our faith as little children; in practice, my heart is slow to acknowledge the very real presence of evil and run at once to the only One able to help.

I really need to stop underestimating the power of prayer.

Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV)
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Matthew 18:1-4
At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

1 Timothy 2:1-4
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

One Comment

  1. Judy Sheppard said:

    This past week I was diagnosed with a serious blood disorder and, thus, I’m faced with some tough decisions and treatment plans. At 72 years of age, it complicates matters even more. Should I even bother? My husband, family and friends are impacted. After the initial shock subsided a bit, I feel the answer is surrender to the will of God, and then proceed. After initially being seen by a doc, I’m transferring to Dr. Mark Tungesvik, a member at The Crossing and also a close-by neighbor. My deepest desire is to glorify God whatever the outcome. My desire is to have the faith your son displayed and trust God with the answer.
    Thank you for this timely message.

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