Daniel, In The Lion’s Den

January 13, 2010

My cousin has three children: a 7-year-old girl and 5-year-old twin boys, Jeremiah and Daniel. Being twins, they are usually attached at the hip, and rarely argue for more than a few seconds. However, one particular Sunday, while I was teaching Children’s Church, I became pretty upset at the way their relationship had soured that day.

A 9-year-old boy who recently started attending our church teamed up with Jeremiah and began to tease his twin brother Daniel about being “germ boy,” as Daniel was getting over a cold. He refused to play with Daniel, and both Jeremiah and the boy put several chairs between them and Daniel. Now, I understand that the usual mentality is boys will be boys, and they are young, they know no better. I tried to ignore it and brush it off as such. But I couldn’t. How could I ignore that Daniel was being teased by his best friend, his twin brother, an impressionable boy being influenced by a bigger bully? Why should I just turn away from that? Why should I adopt the idea that this was just intrinsic in a young boy, an there was “nothing I could do about it?” I couldn’t help but scold them for being rude. Although Jeremiah is only 5, I made it clear to him that his brother doesn’t deserve to be treated that way. I made it clear to the older boy that he should know better. But the teasing didn’t stop there. They continued with the name-calling and leaving him out of their games. Daniel was in his very own little  Lion’s Den.

Daniel later asked if he could sit with me while they watched a movie, still being ignored by the other boys, even after he returned a few toys they had dropped. My heart ached for him. He wasn’t crying, but he was obviously bothered. I asked him how he felt, and he said fine. I thanked him for having returned the toys. Then he said something that moved me to my core. He said “I choose to be nice”. He CHOSE to be nice. I looked at him and no longer felt the ache. It had dissipated upon seeing how he stood up to the bullies, not by yelling at them or ignoring them in turn, but by making the conscious decision to rise above and be…nice. Keep in mind this kid is only five. Not only was the sentence grammatically correct (those who know me know I have issues with this) but it came from such a pure and honest place.

Later, we watched a Max Lucado video about Hermie the Caterpillar, and Webster the Scaredy Spider. Webster was asking God for strength and God replied audibly. Daniel asked me if God really speaks to us. “Not always in a loud voice,” I told him. “Sometimes you just feel God speaking to you, or He speaks to you through songs, the Bible, or other people”. He looked at me for a few seconds, and then said “I do my homework because I just feel God telling me to be good in my heart.” It was a miracle I didn’t melt off my seat. At that moment, I saw his tender heart. I knew God had a huge purpose with him, and it has already begun. All I could do is smile and tell him that he makes God really happy, and that God loves him so much. He then looked up at me and asked “But why does God beep our hearts?”

I couldn’t find words to tell him why. I reminded myself that he is only five, he wouldn’t understand. He’d probably blow it off or forget it just as soon as he had heard it. But I had forgotten just as soon as I had seen it: Daniel was wise beyond his years. He spoke to the heart of his (then) 22-year-old cousin just by being himself. “God beeps our hearts because that is how he keeps us alive. But he also uses our hearts to keep us doing good things”. I felt the answer didn’t do his question justice. I felt like sitting with him and explaining as best I could about the dynamics of our hearts with God. But I was stilled by the thought that although he was the one who asked the question, Daniel understood exactly why God “beeps our hearts”. I didn’t have to answer to him. He knew that God moves in us so that he may move through us. What a fitting name for him, Daniel, a (little) man after God’s own heart.

Eventually he’ll grow older, and experience harsher unkindness or injustice. It may threaten to cloud over the kindness in his heart, but I pray that God doesn’t stop beeping his little heart, ever. In doing so, God beeped my own.

My God is sovereign, and gracious. But he’s also very very quick. This week has been an eye-opener for me. I had another post lined up instead of this, but I felt it in my heart to have you all heed this warning: You pray, and it WILL be answered. That’s nothing to fear, but rather something to make sure you are mentally, emotionally, and spiritually prepared for the quickness that God moves with, in, towards, and through you.

Within hours of me launching this site and making it public last Tuesday, God began testing my commitment. My mind kept racing with thoughts of “are you living what you’re writing? Can you say that you are learning from what you are trying to teach others?” God heard my heart-cry of launching the site and learning the commission and responded so rapidly that I had to instantly check myself, my intentions, my readiness of spirit and mind. It’s funny how shocked we are when God answers prayers, as if He’s incapable of doing so.

Within days, my character was next to be tested. The very people who I knew would be difficult to lavish love upon came calling to me, needing an ear or a helping hand. Because loving someone requires so much emotion, I never imagined that setting my own emotions aside would be required of me to this degree.  So when I felt God telling me to forget about myself and how I feel about a particular circumstance, it was unexpected… and painful. I had to stretch my heart to allow space for people who I had chosen not to extend unconditional love towards. So much confusion came my way, and so much fleshy rebellion wanted to spring up. In that moment, I learned how selfish we have all been brought up to think: it’s all about looking out for number one.

It is embarrassing how often we fail at one of the two greatest commandments God has for us, to  love your neighbor as yourself. With the same care and affection I offer myself during times of hurt or discomfort, I must do the same for my brother or sister. With the same attention to detail I pay when finding my own spiritual counsel or nutrient, I must offer to someone seeking the same.

I never imagined it would be easy, but I never imagined the speed with which God would move. I guess my spoiled mind thought he’d move when I felt ready. I know that I know that I know that God moves on his time, and His ways are not my ways. But intrinsically, somewhere deep, I had forgotten this, and was blown over by the amount of confirmation and conviction that came my way.

With heaving heart, I have slowly come to expect the divine appointments and fellowship that a week ago were slim to none. Risking sounding cliché, I am really being violently pulled by God from my comfort zone. The proverbial zone had started to fester, really, from so much laziness and lack of movement in that area of my life. This sudden change comes at an appropriate time, at the beginning of a new decade. If you are going through a similar shift in your spiritual life, I encourage you to do so with an open and willing heart, and a spirit of readiness and servitude. No one said it would be a simple task. If it were, it wouldn’t be worth it.