My youngest daughter and I were driving to who knows where, but it was just the two of us. The backseat empty of siblings, just mom and child side by side – there’s something magical about these conditions. The deep insights they share in that passenger’s seat! My son once confessed he’d been observing whether or not male drivers were smiling on their commute, and after many months of visual research, he’d assessed that men were almost unanimously smiling if behind the wheel of a truck, and nearly never smiling if driving a car. When I pressed him as to why he thought this might be, he had a ready conclusion. “I think it’s because men with trucks work with their hands and that makes them happy.”
It’s during drives like these and conversations like these when my gaze is pulled toward the passenger’s seat, toward the child and their quiet thoughts revealed, and my own silent thought is nothing less than, ‘Who is this beside me, really?’ So no, I didn’t know what my daughter was thinking last weekend, but I could hardly wait to hear what she had to say.
“I was just talking to God out loud, like praying, and I was thinking about how sometimes you pray for something and He works things out differently than what you’d hoped and it’s not what you wanted exactly, but it’s still good. Do you know what I mean?”
I nodded and she continued. “Like maybe someone asks God for a dog, but their parents won’t let them get one, and then someone asks them to watch their dog a lot and so it’s almost like they did get a dog. God still worked it out, just a different way.”
“So when we trust God knows what’s best, it’s easier to see His goodness in our situation, even if it’s not how we expected to see it?”
“Yep.” Her head was comfortably tilted toward soft desert landscapes and although I couldn’t see her expression, I sensed her contentment. “I couldn’t wait to tell you. I knew you’d love it.”
And I did love it. I loved that she shared her thoughts with me and I loved her understanding of God’s goodness, because what she didn’t say – what we both knew – is that in eleven years of living, she’s experienced her share of disappointment. She’s experienced loss, prayed for things she didn’t receive, and in several areas of her life, she’s still waiting to see God’s goodness revealed, but she’s looking. She continues hoping, and just as God promises, He continues filling her with joy and peace while she waits.
And for all these reasons, I’m glad it was my daughter explaining hope to me instead of the other way around. I, too, have had my share of storms, failures, and heartbreak, and I’ve come to equate hope with dreams unrealized and needs unmet, and honestly – sadly – I’d rather have the good life kind of faith where I tell God what I want and He gives it to me, and life is effortless and nothing but blessing and I can tuck hope in my Christian back pocket and never need it all.
Thoughts from the driver’s seat revealed. My faith is childish, not child-like.
But faith’s vitality is rooted in my ability to hope in Christ. Without hope, disappointment quickly becomes a crisis of faith. With Jesus as my hope, I have the hustle and sweat necessary to remain faithful. I have the courage to wrestle doubt and discouragement. I have the joy to ask, “Lord, give me today”, no matter how many sleepless nights. And when the smell of smoke is thick, hope keeps me breathing deep and steady, never wavering in belief that beauty is somewhere in those ashes.
Tuck hope in my back pocket? I can’t. I won’t have the endurance to make it through a single day.
I laid my hand on my daughter’s arm, glanced her direction as best I could, and asked, “What’d you say to God after He helped you understand all of this?”
Simple goodness and truth from the passenger’s seat. I get it now. Hope doesn’t endure alone. God is with me, and when He is close, His goodness is, too.
It’s been a few months since this conversation, and in that time, I’ve had some good practice with hope. I’ve asked some hard questions. There were quiet days and trying days, and sometimes God was asking me the hard questions. In all of it though, He was there. As the New Year approaches, I’m looking for God’s goodness, and I’m hoping with expectation. I’m praying you are, too.