The piano has gone quiet, and I can hear the girl on the bench heaving these deep sighs into the ceiling. It's like she's just had it. Like she can't go on. Like the song is never going to sound like an actual song underneath her amateur fingers.
I wipe my hands on a damp dishtowel and walk up behind her, feeling this invisible tension in the narrowing space between us.
"Need help?" I toss the towel over my shoulder. She scoots over on the bench to make room for her mama. We're ringed in the scent of Dawn soap.
"I hate this song, Mom. Hate. It." She pounds clenched fists onto the black keys.
The song is called Blessings, by Laura Story.
It's not the song she hates -- at least I don't think so. What she really hates is the fact that she can't play it yet.
I breathe in a long breath. "How about I play the left hand and you play the right hand until you get the hang of it?" We play our fumbling duet, and silently, I read the lyrics.
"We pray for blessings," the song begins. "We pray for peace, comfort for family, protection while we sleep."
I feel a tightening on my insides, like all the words have unraveled from thin pages to form this gigantic knot in my throat. I'm afraid some of the lyrics might leak out my eyes.
Maybe it was the song after all. Maybe she was afraid that God's blessing -- like the song says -- would have to come through raindrops and tears and a thousand sleepless nights.
Tomorrow morning, Lydia goes back to the surgeon.
It's kind of a long story, but the first surgery wasn't entirely successful. Teeth are stubbornly fused to bone. Post-surgery is painful.
"Why do my surgeries never work the first time?" she demanded. True enough, she had to return twice to the surgeon to repair a hole in her eardrum. And now, twice to the oral surgeon.
Her eyes blazed, like they held a sort of fury. She unfurled her question: "Why doesn't God answer my prayers?"
I put on a brave face, and fumbled for weak answers, as if it's my job to do PR for God to my child.
Right then, I quietly stormed the gates of God's House. I nose-pressed myself to the windows of Heaven, knocked on the glass and demanded to know if God was actually, you know, home.
And did He see that a little girl was losing faith down here?
My eyes darted wildly, and I couldn't see Him in the house, but He tapped me on the shoulder while I was in that embarrassing pose at the window. I whipped my head around and heard Him say: "I'm right here. Always."
God has grown accustomed to my nose-pressing inquisitions. He's seen how I never quite grew out of my questions. Maybe I grew into them. I think my questions saved me.
I remember what Philip Yancey says: “I have learned that faith means trusting in advance what will only make sense in reverse.”
So I hold firm to the faith, believing I'll have a rear-view vantage point someday.
Later, after we finished our duet and turned down bed-covers, my daughter and I curled up in her bed.
She asked more of her "whys." I fumbled around with more of my flimsy answers. I thought about some verses in Scripture, and I had some pretty good Bible stories on the tip of my tongue.
But tonight, she didn't need exegesis. She didn't need a hermeneutical examination of suffering. She didn't need theological treatise.
She's 11. She needed her mother.
"Mom," she whispered hoarsely into the dark. "Just make me feel better."
And maybe we're all 11 years old. Maybe we all just need someone we love to wrap an arm around us, to sing softly in our ear, and to let us cry as long as we need to cry. Maybe we need someone to cry with us. Maybe we need someone who isn't afraid of hard questions, and someone who is willing to stick around long enough to hear every one of them. Maybe we need someone who doesn't feel the need to offer long-winded answers. Maybe we're all a bunch of kids who need someone to let us know it's really going to be okay, simply by being present with us when we're not okay at all.
Maybe we need someone who will stay up during the night-watches when it feels like our own prayers got lost in the mail.
Before I turned out the light, I prayed for my girl. I held her hand tight. I stroked her cheek. I tried not to let her hear the quiver in my voice. I prayed for her doctor. I prayed for her little teeth. And I prayed for the comforting presence of Christ. Sometimes, I'm not sure what that feels like -- the presence of Christ, the comforting hand of an invisible God. But I trust that it happens.
On this night, maybe the prayed-for presence of Christ felt like a mother pulling her child in tight, rubbing circles into her back, humming for as long as she needed to hum.
Maybe it feels like that moment when you know the song you're trying to play with amateur fingers isn't working, and you need someone to play the other hand with you until the music, at last, makes sense.
So, what's your Story? A #TellHisStory is any story that connects your story into the story of God.
For details on the #TellHisStory linkup, click here: https://jenniferdukeslee.com/tell-his-story/. Be sure to find someone (or two) in the link-up to encourage with a comment. Come back on Friday to visit our Featured #TellHisStory, in the sidebar.
Your words matter to God. They matter to people. And they matter to me!
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Surgery is Wednesday morning. Grateful for your prayers.