Will I ever learn?
Last February I wrote about my son's experience losing a tiny part to a toy racecar. I told Kason then that the odds of finding the miniscule bit were about as slim as the piece itself – no bigger than his fingernail.
The faithful scavenger refused to give up and eventually he found it, I was humbled, and in the process I promised I would not doubt his faith next time and would also try to have more of my own.
“Next time” arrived last Sunday.
Both Kason and his younger brother have been Lego fans since the womb. That passion has reached new heights with the release of “The Lego Movie.” I never imagined that a 90-minute commercial could be so entertaining, but the entire Wright gang enjoyed it and the kids have been back to see it twice.
A week ago several of Kason’s Lego men stowed away in his pocket to church. They are small pieces, the size of his thumb, and fit perfectly in his little suit pocket.
After church, he and a few other righteous hooligans waited for their parents to finish socializing outside in the small field next to the chapel. It was harmless fun, the kind of chasing and racing that’s written into the job description of every little boy.
Shortly after returning home, Kason discovered that his Lego men had all gone missing. Thankfully we live close to the church and we were able to return and form an all-hands-on-deck search party.
A dozen of us searched the grass and two were located surprisingly quickly, but the third, his favorite, was nowhere to be found. Eventually we called off the search and rescue and headed home.
Later, at some point during the early evening, Kason remembered the missing man had a small, glow-in-the-dark strip on its head. He suggested that if we went back after dark perhaps we would find it more easily. I answered with all the standard excuses from my dad textbook.
“I'm sorry bud, but it's a school night.”
“I'm sorry kiddo, it’s really cooled off outside and it’s too cold for a wild goose chase.”
“Listen big guy, we're not going to find it.”
Around 8 p.m., with the kids in their pajamas and their mother on the telephone in another room, he hit me again with his final plea. "I know we’ll find it, Dad.”
I’ll admit I saw a bit of myself in him. There he stood in his new Mario pajamas pleading for one more chance to prove his old man wrong.
I called very quietly into my kitchen, knowing his mother was still busy. “Honey, you still on the phone? Do you mind if we go back to the church to look one more time for Kason’s Lego man?”
Hearing no objections, and history will dispute whether she ever actually heard me, I loaded the boys in the car and we set off to hunt one more time for that which was destined never be seen again.
We started with our flashlights off, but quickly realized it was unlikely the little guy would have any glow left in his gut. The three of us took our flashlights and searched the field trying to find a toy the same size as the orphaned French fry at the bottom of a McDonald's bag.
After fifteen minutes the sleeping sun and brisk breeze reminded us it was winter and my chattering teeth said it was time to offer condolences for the missing toy and pack it up.
I gave several warnings. “Three minutes, two minutes, one more minute and I'm going home, guys.”
With a final, “Wrap it up, boys,” I began walking to the car. I was reaching for the door when I heard an excited scream behind me. I turned around and in the dim spill of the parking lot light saw my 10-year-old with his arms stretched overhead.
“You've got to be kidding me,” I whispered to my self-doubt.
“I found it,” he yelled and his younger brother came running over to me to repeat the news, as if I hadn't been paying attention.
I walked back to the spot where the successful adventurer still stood. He reenacted the moment of discovery and the act of pushing a leaf aside with his shoe and finding the missing man facedown in the dying winter grass.
Kason looked up at me and without the slightest sense of sarcasm said, “You totally have to write a column about this.”
I haven’t laughed that hard in months.
On the walk back to the car, the giddy boy explained how he’d prayed privately that afternoon that his prized toy would be found.
“Would you have been all right if you hadn’t found it?” I asked.
“Sure,” he said. His mother had already promised to find a replacement online and surely he wouldn’t have cried himself to sleep or doubted his belief in God had his tender prayer not been answered. He certainly had not staked his faith in him on some miracle.
He’d simply displayed childlike confidence that something lost might be found. He believed that faith coupled with effort would win the day.
He might be right; isn't this how faith works?
If we’re ill, we pray to be well, but we also do everything we can to make ourselves better by caring for our body, taking proper medication and listening to what doctors are other experts say will help us heal.
Need to pass a test? Anxious about a certification exam? Worried about a job evaluation? When faced with these moments, we might pray and express faith that heaven will help us, but then we also study and do everything we can to meet God at the intersection of faith and works.
He didn’t have faith the toy would come to life, walk home and climb back into his Lego bucket. He knew his faith required sacrifice and effort and that even with his best work it might not be enough.
Don’t be mistaken – neither my son nor I believe this miracle deserves to be written up alongside the parting of the Red Sea, healing of the blind man or walking on water.
But for a 10-year-old who’s beginning to discover that he need not rely on dad's faith forever, it's an important building block in his spiritual foundation.
For me, it's yet another reminder that I have a long way to go as an adult have the faith of the child.
Maybe I'll go play with my kid's Legos.
Jason Wright is a New York Times bestselling author of 10 books, including "Christmas Jars" and his latest, "The 96th Annual Apple Valley Barn Dance." He can be reached at email@example.com, applevalleybarndance.com or jasonfwright.com
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