Skinned Knees and Broken Hearts

“Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.” –God, Isaiah 48:10

(Some background music while you read and process this post…)

Eli, our now-4 year old, has been cruising around on a Strider bike ever since his third birthday. He absolutely loved the thing (to learn more about Striders, and for a code for free shipping, check out my wife’s blog here).

Anyway, we bought him his first pedal bike for his fourth birthday. Courtesy of the year spent on the Strider, he learned to ride it pretty much all by himself (with no training wheels!) in two days. Pretty awesome!

On one of those days, we took him up to the college campus where I work (and where there are lots of open spaces) to help him learn. While we were there, two girls and a guy walked up to us and asked if they could pray a blessing over us.

Being unsure of who these people were or what kind of “blessing” they intended to give us, we uneasily assented. It became clear that this trio was of some sort of pentecostal, health/wealth gospel background, but we appreciated their prayers and certainly their boldness to walk up to total strangers and offer a well-intentioned gesture.

They prayed over the kids first, and something they prayed got the wheels in my head turning. It was a little thing, completely innocent – one of the girls prayed that while Eli was learning to ride his bike that he would never fall and that there would be no injuries in the learning process.

Seems all right, doesn’t it? After all, what kind of parent would ever pray that his kid would get injured?

But it made me wonder: isn’t getting hurt an important part of the learning process? Maybe not a necessary one, but is it really something we should be praying against? Isn’t falling how we learn to not only stay up, but the important lesson of getting back up as well?

Aren’t skinned knees proof of an accomplished childhood?

Beyond four year olds on bicycles, I wonder if we as grown ups pray for the avoidance of pain too often. We pray for our worlds to be perfect, and our version of perfect doesn’t leave room for skinned knees, failed surgeries, broken hearts, foreclosed houses, shattered dreams…

I wonder how many of my prayers amount to asking for comfort that may be contrary to the will of God.

I’m certainly not suggesting we pray that our children fall off their bikes. Or that our friends or family fall ill or go through suffering.

But those things are a part of the story we call life. Sooner or later, we might have to admit that we are who we are to some large extent because of the pain and disappointment we have experienced and because of the tears we have shed. It is in moments of sorrow when God’s comforting spirit seems the closest. It is in times of distress when God becomes our strength. It is in times of pain when we know God as Healer.

It is in those times when God is shaping us, refining us, and drawing us deeper into his heart.

Someday, my baby boys are going to get hurt. They may get injured playing sports. They may get their hearts broken by a girl. They may be betrayed by their friends. They may get made fun of at school. Somehow, in some way, they will experience loss and grief and pain and sadness, because everybody does.

I don’t want them to. The protective daddy in me wants to hurt those who hurt my boys. But instead of praying that my sons will not get hurt, I am going to start praying that God will use the hurt to shape them into the men they will become.

I will pray the same thing for Shelly and me as well. Because as difficult as it is to go through those times, every once in awhile we all skin our knees falling off our bikes.

And that’s not a bad thing.