This weekend I had the chance to meet one of my 6 year old nephew’s stuffies, but he was no ordinary stuffed animal. He was a stuffed lion with an insulin monitor around his chest. “My diabetes doctor gave me this,” my godson told me, “But his pump isn’t real, see?” What a sweet way to help my nephew and other kids like him with Type 1 diabetes to make this terrible disease seem less scary, less awful and perhaps, for just a brief moment, slightly more palatable. But frankly, I abhor that stupid stuffed animal.
I hate watching my brother, sister-in-law and my two nephews live with Oliver’s diabetes. I hate that Oli has to deal with insulin levels, dietary limitations and the fact that my brother and sister-in-law have to get up multiple times a night, every night to ensure their son is not having any life threatening issues at any given moment. I don’t want my nephew to have a cute stuffie with a giant pretend insulin monitor around his chest. I don’t want a rubber bracelet around Oli’s tiny wrist with his diabetes information and my brother and sister-in-law’s cell numbers on it. As cute as that lion is, I hate that Oliver has to have to have a stuffie like that at all.
I fought back tears thinking about it on our way home from brother’s house on Palm Sunday, so I decided to pray. You know, that last ditch thing we finally resort to when we can’t do anything else. So I prayed…sort of. As I often do I started praying a halfhearted, out of desperation, please “bless Oli” kind of prayer. But soon I drifted off and instead of really praying, I just thought. Thought about being sad. Thought about what Oliver would do in college (monitor his insulin?? He should be worrying about what kind of pizza to order). It isn’t that I didn’t want to pray for Oli, but I am realizing that my prayer life goes back to my view of who Jesus Christ. My prayers hinge upon not what I believe God can do, but what I believe he will or won’t do based on my experiences, observations and disillusions.
The Palm Sunday account in Matthew 21 finds the locals ask the adoring crowds, “Who is he?” Who is this man everyone is praising? The fickle crowd responded, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.” The prophet? That isn’t how Mary described Jesus in John 11, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” There were a lot of “prophets” in the Bible, but there was only one King, one Son of God who had come into the world. Who is he? Who is he?
Who is Jesus Christ to me, my prayer requests and in the places I hope He will make a difference but I’m afraid he might not? Is Jesus just another wishful hope, another good guy, a wing and a prayer? Or do I pray about my nephew to Jesus the King, the Son of the same God who created the heavens and the earth? And if I pray to the Son of God, the only prophet who overcame death and who sits at the right hand of God? And if I really believe that then how and why do my prayers lack passion, any real hope or the genuine belief that my prayers matter? If I really believe that I am talking to the God who was there when the foundation of the earth was laid, why am I unable to trust that He is capable, benevolent and that He does not need my opinion on how to handle the things that matter most to me, because they matter more to Him?
“Dear Lord, thank you for the lessons in a long car ride home this Palm Sunday. Thank you for reminding me once again to quit going through the motions. I am tired of praying empty, distracted, unbelieving prayers. I am tired of throwing up a quick thought, a quick blessing and failing to do the work of prayer. God help my faith in you to be growing and evolving because “he who moves not forward goes backward.” Going thru the motions praying hopeless prayers does not make my faith life stagnant. It replaces a faith that matters with a desperate, weak hope that is actually more dependent on my logic and what I can see in front of me than it does in who You are. Please help my brother’s family find your strength and peace with life with diabetes. In this new normal, I pray you would help them to know You and your love better. I ask God that you would command your angels concerning Oliver and keep him safe and healthy. Help me to remember to keep this sweet family in prayer regularly because that is what you command us to do regardless of the outcome (1 Sam. 12:23). Help me really believe that my prayers will change me and bless others as I continue to know, love and trust Christ the King, in whom real hope and power exists. In Your Name, Amen.”