(Editor’s Note: Amy Cogdell sent me this story after I spoke on the text in Mark 10:13-16 where Jesus rebukes his followers, explicitly telling them to, “Let the children come to me…” This message followed a time of dedicating children at Hope Chapel on Sunday, February 26, 2012.)
Good morning, Geno!
Thank you again for your teaching about Jesus and the children. I’ve rarely heard a full sermon dedicated to those passages. Most often these texts are treated as sentimental ornamentation – a nice subject for stained glass windows or greeting cards.
Your teaching reminded me of a powerful lesson which I learned from one of my second grade students about 20 years ago. Her faith showed me what it meant to receive the Kingdom as a little child, and I am still challenged by the memory of young Erin’s prayer.
When Thomas and I were first married, we lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He was finishing his undergraduate degree and I was teaching 2nd grade in a Christian school. There were 12 students in my class. Some of them were already committed intercessors. Morning prayer usually lasted about 5 minutes in other classrooms.
In our class, it typically went for about 20 minutes as the children brought to Jesus their sick grandparents, their fighting moms and dads, their lost pets, their hopes for a happy day. One October morning, a seven-year-old little girl named Erin wanted to share a story she had heard about a boy who had suffered an injury in which both arms were cut off. Without pausing, she began praying that God would make his arms grow back.
I thought her compassion was admirable, so I didn’t bother to tell her that arms don’t grow back. Besides, I thought, it was just a gruesome story which had traumatized her, she would forget about it tomorrow. But she didn’t. The next day she prayed the same prayer, and the next, and the next. I began to grow worried that she was becoming obsessed with this boy. I wondered if I should gently encourage her to leave this boy in the hands of God and move on to other prayers.
But what would that communicate, I wondered? That God couldn’t make arms grow back? I believed that God could do anything and I wanted my students to believe that too. But this was a kind of miracle I had never seen. Did I want to tell Erin that we should stop praying at some point? That we should give up? That God had said no? I certainly hadn’t heard from Him that He had told Erin no, so how could I tell her to stop praying? So things went on like that for six months – the teacher growing increasingly uncomfortable with her student’s tenacious, unwavering, undaunted faith.
Then one day in the spring, Erin burst through the door beaming! She handed me a newspaper article about the little boy she had been praying for the past 6 months. The article told the story of a boy in New England who was messing around in his family’s sawmill when tragically both arms were caught in the blade and cut clean off. Thankfully, there was a phone in the mill and the boy was able to dial 911 with his nose.
The paramedics arrived and put the severed limbs on ice. He was rushed to a hospital where surgeons attempted to reconnect the arms. They had hopes that perhaps they could save the limbs for cosmetic reasons, but reconnecting the nerves and restoring functionality was a long shot. Six months later, when the story was written, both arms were working perfectly, as if nothing had ever happened.
Erin rejoiced. I wept. I still cry when I think of that story, and I long for the day when Jesus will introduce this boy to Erin, his unknown little sister half a continent away, who prayed his arms back on.
Blessings to you,