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  • Writer's pictureSam Martin

Let the Little Children Come

A few weeks ago, a truly miraculous thing happened. A thing I’ve prayed for years. My five-year-

old son made the decision to love and accept Jesus. But if it had been up to me, it never would have happened.

Of course, I’ve hoped, prayed, and longed that my children would find a deep and abiding faith in Christ at a young age. But if I had been in control - if all the things I wanted for him had come to fruition, and if all the pain I wanted to spare him from had never happened, if all the pieces of his little life had fallen into place just the way I wanted - this bedtime conversation and subsequent prayer would never have happened.

Last month, two hugely impactful and painful life events occurred for this kid. First, our dog died. Half of this pup’s life was lived pre-kids, but it became very clear in the last few years that her loyalty lay with the kids rather than the adults who housed, loved, and fed her for a decade. My husband and I had known for a while that Sully did not have much time left, and we knew how hard it would be on our son’s tender heart. And when her health took a very sudden turn, Lachlan was indeed deeply concerned and troubled.

Sully got to leave this earth in total peace, surrounded by her people, ushered out by my mom (a vet whose entire practice is built around helping pets die with dignity and peace). Lachlan was intimately involved in the process, holding her closely, and keeping his pain in check. When she had passed, he even carried her twenty pound little body out to my mom’s car. The moment he set her down in a dog bed and kissed her head for the final time, the well opened up and the tears came. And they didn’t stop for a long time. His five-year-old heart was well and truly broken.

Then, a mere eleven days later, his best friend moved to Colorado. Braxton was the first friend Lachlan chose on his own. He has many dear and beloved friends, but most came as a package deal when I chose their moms years ago. But Braxton was the first kid Lachlan just naturally gravitated to, completely independent of my relationships. Over the last 3 years, they’ve been classmates, friends, teammates, and even neighbors. During the weeks leading up to the move, Lachlan and I were processing and talking about ways to stay connected with his friend including letter writing. During one of these conversations, he very seriously asked, “Mom, what if Braxton writes me a letter that says ‘Colorado is better than Texas AND Lachlan.’” Talk about ripping a mama’s heart in two.

If you’ve ever experienced the heartbreak of losing either a pet or a friend, you know what a significant hole it leaves in your life. It’s a lot to process and grieve and make sense of as an adult, much less as a five-year-old, much less experiencing both fewer than two weeks apart. To say my heart was hurting for my kiddo is an understatement. I wanted nothing more than to swoop in and take away his pain. To keep his pup and his friend here. To make everything okay.

It was in the wake of these monumental losses that he sidled up to me at bedtime one night, and whispered into my ear, “Mom, do you think I’m going to heaven?” We’ve had a lot of heaven talk in our family, because our firstborn son is already there. Max became whole and healed at the feet of Jesus mere moments after he was born into a broken little body six years ago. And there’s been no shortage of talk about heaven in our home ever since. But this was different. When Lachlan asked this question, I knew there was something deep and penetrating behind it. So I asked him a few questions in return, and we spoke in hushed tones about how dearly God knows and loves us, how desperately he wants us to know and love him, and what that means. When it became clear that he understood, as clearly as a five-year-old heart and brain can, we prayed together and he accepted Christ.

But like I said, if it had been up to me, we never would have gotten to that moment. If it was up to me, Sully would be alive and Braxton would still live down the block. My son’s heart would never have been broken, then broken again, only to be captured by the love of Christ.

It’s funny. I’ve seen in my own life, that when things go sideways, when I find myself brokenhearted or helpless, God shows up time and time again. He has shown me with no uncertainty that “he heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3), that he is El Roi - the God who sees me, that he knows my name and wants to walk with me. And I know in theory that he cares for my children and wants a relationship with them. But it somehow never occurred to me that he was deeply invested in the life and pain of my son. That God would show up in this moment of hurt, loneliness, and tenderness and reveal himself.

I had somehow convinced myself that I cared more for my child than God did. That I knew best. That I should be able to protect him. But it was in this moment of pain, that God captured his heart. I should have known better. For in Matthew 19:14 Jesus says, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Indeed it does. And despite all the hindering I wanted to do, God paved the way and ushered my son into the kingdom of heaven, broken heart in tow.

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