[from august 12, 2009. one of my most favorite stories. can’t wait to have my own baby boy soon!]
It struck me the other day that perhaps my most promising disciple at the moment is an eight-year-old towhead named Preston, who lives in my neighborhood. I befriended his mom at the local pool last summer and since have spent time nearly every week with this precious family. I started telling Preston bedtimes stories about Jesus last fall when I would babysit him and his two year old sister Makala. At first in his young mind, Jesus ranked right up there with Spiderman and The Incredible Hulk. But many aches of intercession & many conversations about God later, I’m beginning to see his little heart come alive with unadulterated passion. Lately, Preston has been beating me to the punch – every time he sees me, the first thing he’ll ask is a question about Jesus. The other day he started telling me everything he knew about God… how God made people and trees, and how when the wind blows it’s really God breathing on us. Preston thinks that every time it rains, God is crying. After I attempted to explain to him about hell and why sin makes God sad, he said, “So if everyone stopped being bad, it would never rain!” Perfectly logical conclusion!
“Do you know any songs about God?”, he asked one day this summer on our way to the pool. I started singing a kid’s song I learned in South Africa called “Telephone to Jesus.” Preston stopped me. “Can you really talk to Jesus on the phone?” “W-e-l-l, nooo…” I started to say. “I know how you to talk to Jesus though,” he butted in. “You pray!” I had to grin at his exclamation. “That’s right,” I said. “And we can talk to Jesus just like we talk to each other, because He was a real Person,” I said. Preston promptly corrected me, “He IS a real person!”
After 15 minutes of this kind of conversation, I was in serious awe of everything this eight-year-old was telling me about the Lord. I knew he hadn’t learned it from me, and besides one trip to Sunday School, I’m virtually his only spiritual influence. “Preston, did you learn all of this in Sunday School?” I asked, genuinely puzzled. I’ve never heard him talk about God for so long. “Well, I didn’t go to Sunday School for very long, but sometimes, I just think about God and I think He likes it when we think about Him.” I was floored. The Holy Spirit is teaching this little kid about Himself!
A few weeks ago, I in the prayer room I’d helped set up for university students at a Student Church Planting Experience. I was pulling one of those 3am slots, and had entered the prayer room intending to intercede for the university students participating in SCPX. But instead, the Lord had other matters to discuss with me. I couldn’t stop praying for Preston. I felt like the Father was asking me to write a letter to Preston from Him. So I grabbed a piece of construction paper and a marker and started writing from a place of supernatural affection.
On my way back to SCPX a few days later, I picked up Preston a few days later so he could spend the day with me. He lit up with excitement when I told him that I had a letter for him from Jesus. He wanted me to help him read it right then, so I read it mostly from memory (as I tried to keep my eyes on the road!) “Preston, My Preston…” the letter began. And the whole first paragraph was the Father just wanting him to know that He loved all the questions that Preston was asking, and that His heart did cartwheels when Preston thought about Him. I’d barely finished the first part, I looked over and saw the biggest grin you can imagine taking over Preston’s face. “Can you thank Him for me?” he asked intently. “You can thank Him yourself, you know,” I gently reminded him. “Right now?” he asked. “Sure!” I said. And so, with as much passion as his little voice could muster, he let out a loud, expressive “THANK YOU!”
My heart almost melted, but I kept reading. The middle part of the letter was praising Preston for being such a good big brother and for always watching out for his little sister Makala. She’s very special, I had written on the Father’s behalf. The letter also praised Preston for his obedience to his parents, saying that they too were very special. The last section spoke of how Preston was becoming strong and brave, and of how proud Jesus was of him. “Listen for My voice, because I’m always speaking. I love you so much!” the letter finished.
Preston could hardly contain how thrilled he was over God’s words to him. The little guy let out a huge contented sigh. “I just LOVE Jesus!” he exclaimed. He began to tell me his plans for hiding the letter in a special place in his room so that Makala wouldn’t tear it up. He then began to re-read it silently, stopping every once in a while to tell me how much he liked particular lines of the letter. The presence of God was thick in the car as Preston engaged with heart of God over a few simple words scratched on green construction paper.
When we arrived at SCPX, I took Preston up to the prayer room so he could draw a picture for Jesus to hang up. He drew a picture of a rather chubby person with stick legs and a giant smile. He asked me to draw a heart next to Jesus and together we hung it up amongst the other prayers.
Something in me is deeply stirred as I write this story out. I think today I believe more than ever that there is much to consider in Jesus’ recommendation that we come to Him as children. Preston is in no way “out of the game” just because he is eight years old. He is coming to the Kingdom, running freely with a wide open heart, running faster than most grown-ups I know! Today I’m also convinced more than ever that new life is birthed in the place of prayer and that the Most High God is eager to engage with us in capturing the hearts of the ones He loves.