He burst through the front door, slightly out of breath and grinning from ear to ear. He had run all the way home and couldn’t get the words out fast enough: “Mommy! Mommy! Guess what?! You’re not gonna BELIEVE this. You know my friend AJ? The one I was climbing the tree with? Well, we were up in the tree hanging out and chatting about what we wanna be when we grow up and I told him I wanna be a missionary and he said ‘What’s a missionary?’ and so I told him it’s someone who goes around serving people and helping people and telling them about Jesus and he said he doesn’t know anything about Jesus and so I asked if he was a Christian and he said he didn’t think so and he started asking all these questions and I answered them the best I could and I told him all about God and Jesus and invited him to AWANA and to church and he said he might like to know more about Jesus and how to become a Christian and I told him I could help him!!!!! Can you believe that?”
(For those of you who have met Nate, you will have absolutely no trouble believing me when I say he didn’t pause to take a breath once during this entire speech.)
Nathan paid no attention to the visibly frustrated maintenance worker laying on our kitchen floor in a puddle of water. From the man’s facial expressions, I imagined he was mentally screaming obscenities at the three other parts of our dishwasher that had broken while he was trying to fix the loose seal I had called in. Nevertheless, as he listened to Nate tell his story, his furrowed brow softened. Several times I caught him glancing over and I could tell that he was listening.
Nate continued talking for at least ten minutes. He reported his entire conversation to me (and inadvertently the maintenance man) in extensive detail. He told me how he shared everything he knew about sin and Jesus dying on the cross and how to be saved. AJ listened and asked a lot of questions about heaven, hell, evolution, and the universe. Eventually he asked a question that Nate couldn’t quite answer: Why do people have to suffer and why do terrible things happen if God loves us so much?
Nate looked me square in the eyes and got very serious. I could tell that this question had bothered him so I asked him what he said. He replied, “Mom…I didn’t know what to say. So I told him I just don’t know. Just because I’m a Christian, doesn’t mean I know everything or that I understand why that kinda stuff happens. There’s lots of stuff about God that doesn’t make sense to me. Like, I don’t get why they have a stupid war in Syria and why so many kids have to watch their parents get blown up and why they become orphans and have to live such a miserable life. I don’t really get why God doesn’t just make it all stop. But I know that He can send me to Syria and I can do something about it someday. I know that God can do that.”
AJ remarked that Nate was “really wise, kinda like Yoda.” Flattered by this, Nate decided they should go talk to AJ’s mom. So he walked AJ home, knocked on the door, introduced himself, and told AJ’s mom what they had discussed. He asked her permission for AJ to come to AWANA on Sunday afternoon to learn more. She asked a few questions and promised she would talk to his dad about it. And then he ran home tell me about his experience.
After Nate was finished talking he ran back outside and the maintenance man stood up. He remarked that I have “quite an impressive young boy, there.” I thanked him and explained that I’m raising a child whose entire goal is to be a missionary in Syria someday. The man smiled and said, “There’s nothing wrong with being brave.” Then he collected his tools and walked out the door.
I sat alone in my kitchen and tried to collect my thoughts. I had just listened as my 9 year old had boldly shared his faith TWICE in an hour’s time: once with a kid in the neighborhood and again, in retelling the story, with the dishwasher repair man. He wasn’t afraid of offending anyone or being rejected or criticized. It didn’t matter to him that he might not succeed in convincing AJ’s mom to allow him to be a guest at AWANA. He just opened his mouth and spoke effortlessly from his heart.
I sat there contemplating how Nate is so ferociously committed to his convictions. I remembered him as a toddler…how smart, funny, and determined he was. I recalled the very moment I realized how stubborn he was going to be and how I prayed aloud, “If he’s gonna be stubborn like this forever then make him stubborn for You, Jesus.” A lump formed in my throat as I marveled at the fact that of all the women in the whole wide world, God picked me to be his mom. My voice cracked as I mumbled a few words; thanking Him for choosing me, begging Him to help me not mess this up, and praising Him for creating such a courageous, remarkable, tender-hearted young man.
Nate is feisty, energetic, talkative, and sometimes acts like a smarty pants. He can be a real handful at times. But today, he filled my hands (and my heart) with a gentle reminder about the kind of person I want to be:
Someone who will use her words to boldly share her faith and her story.
Someone who refuses to be ruled by fear of rejection, criticism, or ridicule.
Someone who would never deny herself the opportunity to succeed simply because she is intimidated by the possibility of failure.
I don’t know if Nate will make it to Syria someday. Only God knows where He will call Nate. And, ultimately, it will be up to Nate whether or not he chooses to answer the call. I am, however, certain that the maintenance man was right: There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being brave. Nate doesn’t have to go halfway around the world to be brave and be a difference maker. He chooses to do that right here in our house, in our neighborhood, and with almost everyone who gets to know him. My Nate is brave. He was born to be a difference maker. And I want to be a difference maker, too.