It was Mother’s Day, Day 7 of it all, Day 7 since Timothy Bosma left his Hamilton home for a quick test drive of his truck with a couple of strangers and then vanished. And it was my girls who prayed for him.
‘Dear Jesus,’ Liz said.
We were on the 401, in the van, in the busyness of the day, and from her back-seat nine-year-old Liz prayed what many of us are praying day-by-day: ‘Take away Sharlene’s loneliness. And make her feel loved. And help us find Tim.’
And then later that night, sometime after Tim’s own mother had given her impassioned public plea, in our living room was a picture of Tim’s wife, Sharlene, broken hearted, teary-eyed, shaken to her core and yet resolute. It was in the newspaper that was spread on the coffee table. And then it was little Hannah, all of 7, a Ugandan orphan adopted into our family, who, just before her bedtime, gently started her prayer the same way: ‘Dear Jesus.’
Not God, Not Father way up in heaven. Not even Lord. It was Jesus. Dear Jesus.
This is the name that children have an easy time with, a matter-of-fact way of getting out, a name that makes plenty of grown-ups embarrassed and squeamish, but one that, to a child, is the name of a friend who, after all, had once said to his stuffy handlers, ‘No, let them come, let the children come to see me, for Heaven’s sake, people, let them all come.’
‘No, don’t’ discourage the children,’ is what Jesus said. ‘For the Kingdom of Heaven is made up of these. Don’t discourage their questions, foolish as they may seem. Don’t discourage their presence, bothersome as it can feel. Don’t discourage their little childish prayers, for faith even as tiny as a mustard seed can say to a mountain ‘it’s time to move now,’ and that mountain will get up and jump in a lake.’
No wonder that, to a child, Jesus is much more than just God. He’s the friend who is always happy to see you, the friend will always laugh at your jokes and listen to your stories and raise his eyebrows when you tell him what happened next, and maybe even get on all fours to play a game of marbles if you ask in the right way.
And when something has happened, when something terrible has happened, he’s the one who, more than anyone, will let you get it all out: all the blubbering and tears, all the pent up anger at the injustice of it all, all the bewilderment about what in the world to do now.
He’ll listen to your every word and he’ll let you squeeze his hand while you’re standing there telling all. And even though you heard that Jesus never had a family of his own, you get the feeling that he’s closer than any father, or, strangely enough, any mother could ever be.
You also get the feeling that he knew everything even before you told him, but he would never let on because he really is that interested in listening to you explain everything in your own words.
Oh, dear Jesus.
And after you have put everything out in the open, even though what is broken is still lying at your feet, and you still have no idea what’s going to come of it all, you feel better for just sharing.
This is it. This is the prayer of a child. ‘Dear Jesus …’
‘Dear Jesus. Please help Tim, wherever he is. Help Sharlene, however heart-broken she is. Help their little girl, for she needs a Daddy. And Tim’s mother. This is all we ask. Help them all. And help us too. Help us through all this to somehow grow young, to grow into childhood.’