Ronnie and I put 10 names in a paper bag and I drew in this order: Daniel, Jae, Leah, Hae Linn, Aimée, David Douglas, David Christian, Calvin, Matthew, Brandon Lee. These are our combined progeny, plus two he wants to cover. We targeted one per week, fasting Sunday sundown to Monday sundown, for 10 weeks beginning April 25, 2005.
He doesn't pray like I'm used to. It threw me off when he would say, "Lord, thank you for saving Daniel." But he claims Mark 11:24 and can't be talked out of it: "Whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours."
It's late summer of 2006 and we haven't crossed any names off yet, haven't heard the angels' band that strikes up when one soul comes home. There have been interesting developments, though. Jae (my son) landed himself in prison in February of this year. Ronnie and I instantly saw this as something positive.
Still, the days are long. We train our eyes on the horizon and look for Elijah's fist-sized cloud presaging rain. Sometimes I get discouraged.
"How long, O Lord?" (Psalm 13:1).
What do we know about the kingdom? It is like gardening, we are told. Sally and I did Mrs. Chesbro's farm from seed to station wagon tailgate in the summer of '75. We traced a shallow furrow with inverted hoe, tucked zinnia seeds to bed at measured intervals, and covered. We stretched a string from end to end and staked to mark the place. Each morning we would come and check-no sign of life.
One morning you're not sure. You seem to see a fissure running up the aisle like ant earthquakes. Next morning, peeking closely, you can spy the tops of tiny green heads, bent low as if preparing to unfurl themselves, to break out from death clothes. Improbably skinny necks donning hats of earth more than their weight elongate every morn, one hand and then another sprout from who knows where. By July Sally and I had to part our way like jungle lionesses through the leafy boughs festooned with pinks and yellows that we cut long-stemmed for Mrs. Chesbro to make ready for the doyennes of Cape Cod.
"See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth" (James 5:7). The garden teaches patience.
The garden teaches mystery. Mrs. Chesbro's feckless farmhand "sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself" (Mark 4:27-28).
On walks with Spider I pray dragnet prayers, taking in my kids and all their friends. Jessica, my daughter Hae Linn's bosom buddy from adolescent days, I have lifted up to the Lord for a decade, with alternating rote and fervent prayer. About five years ago she suddenly was one of us, and has remained. Was it by prayer? Was it some comment long ago that germinated in the dark? Why she and not another? "He knows not how; the earth produces by itself."
It was but one. And I did not appreciate the sign in it. But Jesus, when they brought Him Greeks, inconsequential trickle in the festal throng (John: 12:20-24), was not so blind to fail to see the thing for what it was: the first fruits of a bumper crop. With distant and prophetic gaze He spoke of seed and mystery: "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone."
July of 2006. Jesse, Hae Linn's best high-school friend, is in town and says she must see me. A few Novembers ago, Jesse jumped from a bridge; by all rights she should have died. We prayed and she survived. I've said to the Lord many times since then, "Would You save her from the first death just to let her taste the second?" Now here is Jesse in my kitchen sharing her encounter with Christ. I disbelieve for joy until I'm sure.
Meanwhile, the list of 10 remains. I look for ant earthquakes-no sign of life. But movement on the edges gives me trust in mystery.
"Here is a call for the endurance and faith of the saints" (Revelation 13:10).