Something that’s occurred to me since our son Matt went away to Basic Training last week, is how accustomed I am to being able to communicate with my kids at any time. Think about it – if you’re a parent whose kids were born in the last 20 years or so, you’ve been able to reach out to them at any time and any place regardless of where they are. All you’ve had to do is pull out your phone and send a text. You may not get a response, or you may get a grudging response that doesn’t tell you much, but you know they’ve heard from you. And if you want to know what’s going on with them or where they are, it’s not hard to find out. [Aside: Matt is not what you’d call effusive or bubbly at all, but his texts almost always end with an exclamation point so he comes across as Mr Enthusiasm. It actually makes texting with him kind of fun, because it’s like we have two entirely different personalities – the Matt we see and the virtual Matt on our phones.]
The reason that’s hit me so hard is that we can’t communicate with Matt at all right now. He’s not allowed to have his phone and he won’t be allowed to write until he’s been there for a couple of weeks. He called the night he got there to tell us he’d arrived (and that he’d lost his wallet with all of his ID in the Atlanta airport), but other than that, no communication. And that’s been about the weirdest aspect of this whole thing. He’s not just gone – he’s gone GONE, and we haven’t a clue what’s going on with him.
And that got me to thinking about something else. What must this process be like for parents who aren’t believers? What is it like to send your kid off to Basic Training – or anything else, really – without the ability to pray for them? I pray for Matt several times a day – whenever I think about him. And, in one sense, not being able to communicate with him has made the desire to pray even more intense. If he was gone and I couldn’t pray for him? That would be maddening.
I have no idea how he’s doing. I have no idea if he’s happy, sad, lonely, thriving, worn-out, discouraged, invigorated, beaten down, hating life or thrilled about being in the army. I can make a pretty good guess that he’s not having the time of his life – I don’t think the goal of boot camp is to make sure everybody has fun – but other than that, I’m completely clueless as to his state of mind or being. But here’s what I know – His Redeemer is with him and loves him. And that Redeemer also happens to be the Sovereign of the universe. So I can pray confidently, knowing that nothing I pray for is outside of His capability. I can pray, “Father, please come alongside Matt. Make him know Your presence. Give him the mental and physical strength to make it. Don’t let him become so discouraged that he quits. Help him with the running. Please protect him. And above all else, please make this experience draw him closer to You and don’t let it push him away.”
And you know what? I KNOW that prayer is heard. I KNOW Matt’s Father in heaven wants what’s best for him and has the power to accomplish it. I can’t do a thing for Matt and I don’t know what the heck’s going on with him, but the Creator and Sustainer of all things CAN and DOES. You know how reassuring that is? That’s why I can’t imagine doing this without that ability. I can pray for Matt at any time or all the time, and my prayer is heard by the One who can do ALL THINGS for Matt and knows and loves him more than I ever can or will.
You know the old hymn, What a Friend We Have in Jesus? I’ve been thinking about the lyrics of that song a lot lately, and I don’t think there’s a better way to express my point than rehearsing them here:
What a friend we have in Jesus
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
Can we find a friend so faithful,
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness;
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Are we weak and heavy-laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Savior, still our refuge—
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised
Thou wilt all our burdens bear;
May we ever, Lord, be bringing
All to Thee in earnest prayer.