And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. (John 17:3)
Years ago, on a drizzly summer day, my children and I took a quick drive to the grocery store. All three sat in the back—my youngest in her car seat and the twins in their boosters.
“Mom, will I ever see a rainbow?”
I glanced in the rearview mirror and saw my older daughter staring through the window up at the sky. She angled her head this way and that, searching.
She knew what a rainbow represented—a reminder of God’s promise to never again destroy the earth with a flood—and that God had designed it to appear when the sun shone after the rains.
But my daughter rarely saw rain.
The bulk of Arizona’s showers come during monsoons in the summer—a time when my husband and I typically packed up our family and retreated to cooler temperatures in Northern California. As a result, by age five my daughter and her twin brother had never seen a rainbow. But that particular day they wanted to.
After I provided several reasons why a rainbow might not appear, she and her brother resolved to just ask God to put one up. They asked, thanked Him, then went back to peering out the window wide-eyed and eager.
Their decision to pray and the subsequent prayer happened so fast I hadn’t time to react. They’d bypassed mom—who had no power to do what they were asking—and went straight to the source, fully expecting Him to do what they believed He could do easily.
I didn’t want that moment to be a stumbling block for them in their faith, and I initially feared it would be. Having walked with God about a decade by that time, I had experience with “no” being the answer to prayer. But knowing Him had eased the sting of disappointment and sealed the foundation of my faith against cracks and crumbling. I could have my petitions denied without doubting God’s existence, His ability, or His love.
My children knew of Him, but did not yet know Him; and I wasn’t sure how they would take it if He denied their innocent request.
I also didn’t know how effective it would be to give a couple of kindergarteners a mini-theology lesson about God answering prayer. So I bit back that speech and waited.
For a brief time the only sounds in the car were the hissing of tires over wet pavement and the occasional squeak of wiper blades across the windshield. My chest tightened with each peek in the rearview at those little eyes scouring the sky for their rainbow.
When I could hold my breath no longer, I pleaded with God to do for them as they had asked, for no other reason than the one I gave Him in a short heart prayer:
“I want them to know You.”
I was no stranger to praying for my children, but my requests often stemmed from temporal motives: their happiness, their success in an activity, the day’s stress levels. I suddenly understood the inferior nature of those things and the countless others mothers obsess over concerning their children.
I wanted them to know God sees and hears; and that those who seek Him find Him. I didn’t want Him to be silent that day, though I knew He was well within His rights.
‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord. (Isaiah 55:8)
He could have denied my request because He sees and knows what I don’t, and in His bigger picture of the story there could have been valid reasons for holding His peace. Fortunately, however, He put a rainbow in the sky directly in front of us.
What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him? (Psalm 8:4)
My children gasped when they saw the banner of green, red, yellow, and violet whispering across the gray sky. “It’s beautiful,” my daughter said, her voice swollen with awe.
Though they’d seen pictures and videos of rainbows, the intimacy of the moment was not lost on them. Their first encounter with a real rainbow came by way of an encounter with God, and that is something they carry with them to this day. His nearness grew from something they’d learned about to something they experienced firsthand, because he had heard and answered their prayer in such a way that His presence became tangible.
They took turns thanking Him and applauding His handiwork. Literally. My son clapped and told God, “Good job! It’s amazing.”
My twins are teenagers now. As they’ve grown, they’ve petitioned and sometimes all-out campaigned for things they’ve wanted. Some of the requests are worthy, others are practical entreaties born of the stage of life they’re in and what they’re dealing with; and as mom I still lift up to Jesus the things they care about.
But we have never forgotten that sudden rainbow through the blurry window. It is a reminder to my children that God is always with them, and that they can pour out their hearts before Him trusting that He is listening and that He cares.
It is a reminder to me that of all the things I want for my children, the greatest is that they seek Him and find Him, and that He make Himself known to them.
Yet while my desire for my children to know God is strong, His desire to know them and be known by them is even stronger. I can trust Him to pursue them the way He pursued me, to reveal Himself to them the way He revealed Himself to me, and to be the voice that constantly calls to them in their journey through life, “This is the way, walk in it,” (Isaiah 30:21).
And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. (1 John 5:20)
Knowing God in Christ is eternal life, and it is the greatest gift a mother can ask of God for her children.
It is also the greatest gift she can receive as a child of God herself.
Tanara McCauley is a writer of stories inspired by the adventure she lives in Christ. That adventure includes one husband, three children, and a fearful little dog named Charlie. And books. Lots and lots of books.
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