The blind and the lame came to [Jesus] at the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant.
“Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him.
“Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read,
“‘From the lips of children and infants
you, Lord, have called forth your praise’?”
–Matthew 21:14-16 (NIV)
After gymnastics one afternoon, I took my daughter, Hannah, then five, out on a Daddy-Daughter date at her favorite Mexican restaurant, Taco Cabana. After we arrived and ordered our food, Hannah, volunteered to choose our table while I filled up her drink cup with lemonade and gathered plastic ware and napkins. We sat down across from each other, and after our dinner arrived, I took her hand in mine and asked her to say Grace. What came out of that little 3 foot 4 ½ inch, 35 pound five-year-old was totally unexpected. Normally it’s a quick “God is great; God is good. Let us thank him for our food. Amen,” in all sorts of silly voices, accents, and animal sounds. But that evening it was different: it was the first time Hannah said Grace off-the-cuff, total improv. At that moment heaven wrapped earth in its arms and I saw God’s Glory in the face of my daughter, heard God’s voice in the prayer of one of His dearest children:
“Daddy . . . Thank You for this food, and keep everyone safe who are in their cars. Please bless this food. Amen.”
She punctuated “Amen” with a sparkling brown-eyed smile, and I tell you, it was one of those moments that affirms the job I’m doing as a Daddy, and what my wife, Mary, is doing as a Mommy. It was truly a kiss on the forehead from our heavenly Daddy! Such simplicity out of the mouth and the heart of His precious daughter. I melted with both pride and humility. This is what it’s all about, I thought. This . . . moment . . . .
That same night, as I tucked Hannah into bed, I put my hand on her chest and began to pray my usual thanks and covering over her, but she interrupted me. “Daddy,” she said, “let me say my prayer.” She then launched into a prayer unlike any I’d prayed over her since she was hidden away in her mommy’s womb. It rang so natural and true and clear and appreciative and so . . . in tune with the God of the Universe, her true Daddy. When she finished I whispered “How can I top that?” and completed it with our “only good dreams” coda, which Hannah finished with “and no bad dreams!” I wagged my finger and repeated “And no bad dreams!” I kissed her goodnight, snapped off the lamp, and closed the door quietly behind me.
They say the children still have one foot in heaven and one foot on earth, that they see what we don’t see as adults, that they hear what we don’t hear as slaves shackled to the world and all its selfishness and distractions. I believe it, I’ve seen it, I’ve heard it, I know it’s true. My daughter’s got it, man! She’s truly in touch. She knows who her Daddy is despite my poor modeling of Him, despite my grumpiness and Mary’s yelling and my distractedness and our busy-ness. Hannah knows and, despite us, she demonstrates joy and silliness and fun and life in the Spirit right here before our eyes. She’s our teacher, not the other way around.
I kissed my tired daughter goodnight, turned out the light, and left her to her dreams. Only good dreams, no bad ones . . . .
Copyright © 2013 David C. Hughes