“Who is the greatest…?”
“…whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest…”
Matthew 18:1b and 4a (NIV)
* * * * * *
Nathan’s pleading blue eyes searched his mother’s face. “Mommy, why can’t I have a baby sister - like Tony’s baby, Maria? She’s so cute!” He hung his head and stared at his bare toes as they idly scuffed the linoleum floor.
“I don’t know why, honey…but the doctor says Daddy and I can’t have any more babies. We thought we weren’t going to have you, but I guess we got lucky.” Susan swooped Nathan into her lap and enveloped him in a big bear hug, then pushed aside what remained of her morning cup of coffee and nuzzled his blonde head.
“Well…I REALLY…want…a baby…but ‘specially a baby sister.” Nathan mumbled the words into Susan’s bathrobe with muffled defiance, and then snuggled into her embrace.
“I love you, Nathan.”
Nathan was conceived only after years of fertility treatments, and was considered a “miracle baby.” As Susan continued to try for a second child, the doctor shared his professional conviction. “It’s not going to happen again, Susan. Love little Nathan and be happy with one child, because you’re not going to conceive again. I will continue to monitor your health because of your abnormalities. But don’t expect another baby.”
Susan and her husband Steve accepted the doctor’s prognosis. They knew several childless couples and were grateful to God to have been blessed with precious little Nathan. They could and would choose to be content.
However, as Nathan observed friends who enjoyed the company of younger siblings, he cultivated a different vision. Finally one evening before bed he announced his plan. “Mommy, let’s pray and ask God for a baby sister. C’mon Mommy…I wanna pray.”
Susan gazed into the innocent, trusting face of her child and knew that his request was heart-felt, but her expectation did not match his. After all, she had already prayed countless times for another baby – and yet the doctor said another pregnancy was physiologically out of the question. Why continue to pray for the impossible?
Nathan, however, did not know the meaning of doubt. His four-year-old heart believed God was in charge of new babies. He also believed God answered prayer and could perform miracles.
“Okay honey, let’s kneel by your bed and you can pray.” Susan felt a lump of long-neglected hope lodge in her throat as Nathan clasped his hands, closed his eyes, and sighed deeply.
“God, You know I want a baby sister real bad. I’d love her, God, real good. I can be a great big brother God, better than Tony even! Can you please send me a baby sister? Right away? Thank you. Amen.”
Two weeks later Susan reported a discrepancy in her monthly cycle to the doctor, but also secretly performed a home pregnancy test. Within the month the news was confirmed: Susan was pregnant!
Of course Nathan had no doubt from the beginning that the baby would be a girl. “But what if you have a baby brother, Nathan? We don’t know the baby will be a girl,” Susan cautioned.
“Mommy, I prayed for a baby sister, “ Nathan declared with an air of juvenile certainty. And then he added, with a quizzical look on his face, “If I asked for a sister, why would God give me a brother?”
Susan cherished Nathan’s simplistic optimism, but anxiety continued to clutter her heart. What if I lose the baby to a miscarriage? What if it is born prematurely, or with defects? Susan’s twenty-week ultra sound revealed the truth: she was carrying a healthy girl.
A beautiful baby named Katie arrived almost exactly nine months after Nathan’s simple but earnest prayer. Today, thirteen-month-old Katie - a classic beauty with curly auburn hair, big brown eyes, and a rosebud mouth - thrives as the little sister of a loving big brother who believed God for the gift of her life.
“Who is the greatest?” the disciples once asked Jesus.
“You must change and become like little children,” He said to his followers.
Nathan’s parents know who is great in Jesus’ eyes: people who know what it means to be dependent, hopeful, trusting, and confident believers - just like Nathan.
Note: This story is based on fact. Five-year-old Nathan is my hero. :-)
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