When God Waves Back: A Child's Story

This week I attended my children's school Christmas music program.  As I write this, I have two children in grade school and one hovering dangerously close to young adult-hood.  They have all been a blessing to me, and I was looking forward to this event quite a bit.  As hundreds of us parents made our way into the crowded school gymnasium, I couldn't help but feel the joy and anticipation in the air.  We were lucky to find a place to sit on the high rise bleachers ... it was a full house.  

A hush fell over the audience as the students began to file through the hallway and into the gym.  Dozens of parents extended their hands high, holding cell phones equipped with state-of-the-art cameras.  I did the same.  We must have looked like a sea of news reporters at a CNN conference where the president was about to come on stage.  Once situated on the risers, almost every child began scanning the crowd for familiar faces.  Looking for your parents and grandparents is standard fare at these events, and every kid is programmed to do this I think.  My youngest spotted me before I even saw him.  When I finally locked eyes, he raised his arm and began the ceremonial "Hello Daddy" wave.  I waved back, thus sealing our unwritten contract.

I have a feeling that deep down, no matter how old we are or where we come from, we all scan the audience from time to time, looking for a familiar face.  Why do we do this?  It is possible we need some type of recognition at our job, or maybe we need to be noticed by our peers.  Sometimes we may simply be double-checking that we matter enough for people to come out and watch while we go through life.  From time to time I engage in public speaking of one sort or another, and I can't help but scan the audience myself.  Looking here and there for a friendly face.  Am I looking for someone to wave at? It depends I suppose.

At any rate, it is December as I write this, and our young family is buzzing with Christmas excitement at home.  We have the lights up on the house and the tree stands tall and proud in the family room; a testament to gifts and goodies yet to come.  There are Santa Claus ornaments on the branches and stockings over the fireplace.  It is a happy time of year.  But understand this also - my mother passed away seven years ago, right around the holidays.  It was January actually, and I can still remember how cold it was at the funeral.  Much of it is a blur now, but God has graced me with certain memories that will remain sharp no matter how many years pass.  I now cherish these  moments with her, of course.  Recently I visited her grave site in Des Moines, something I hadn't done in a while.  It was October and there were leaves on the ground already, but fortunately no snow yet.  I had to brush away the cut grass, and even a few weeds that had found there way over the tombstone.  It was a strange feeling to be back there.  Why do I let so much time pass in between visits I wonder?

As I was driving to the cemetery, it felt almost the same way it feels to go meet an old friend at a coffee shop or restaurant.  How great it will be to catch up.  How wonderful to see her again. As my car pulls around the curve and I drive by the mausoleum, reality sets in.  There will be no one waiting in person to greet me.  I find her lot and park the car.  What am I doing here?  How will I react when I see the grave site?  Instantly I am a child again, seeking after my parent.  I envision myself six-years-old at my elementary school, standing on the risers after being led out by the teacher.  Can I see my mom?  Where is my dad?  Later in life, when I would speak occasionally at my local church, my mother would attend the service.  I would sit in the audience and wait for the pastor to introduce me.  I would then scan the doorway and look for my mother to arrive.  Sometimes I would wave first ... sometimes she would.  Always nice to see a familiar face, but no face will greet me today at her grave site.

I spend just the right amount of time at the cemetery, then get back into my car to leave.    Why does it feel like we just had a conversation even though it was just me?  Why doesn't she answer back?  Can't she see me waving from the bleachers?  Darn it, I forgot to pick up flowers.  Will she notice?

I believe it a truism to say that most of us are seeking something or someone to wave at.  A familiar face in a crowded gymnasium.  The reason we scan the audience doesn't matter so much as the fact that we are born seeking after meaning in this life.  I am blessed also to have a cub scout den that knows this, and we are currently putting one of my boys through a 'God and Me' study unit.  Recently we discussed John 3:16, and the boys were supposed to write what this phrase means to them personally.  Many of us know this Scripture by heart: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."  It is a familiar verse, but it is an important one.  

I look over to see what my son has chosen to write.  This is what he said: "To help everyone who's being bullied.  And to make God feel happy."  This is an eight-year-old's stylistic interpretation of the famous verse in the Gospel of John.  I chuckled to myself when I read it.  If the concept of sin can be equated to being bullied, then he's nailed it!  But more than that, isn't John 3:16 an example of God acknowledging us?  It feels like He is waving back at us from the parent section.  "I am here," he might say ... "and I love you."

Are we waving back at Him?  I sincerely hope so.  I believe my mother did before she passed.  If the Bible is a novel about Salvation, then the Gospels are a love story.  They present us with a Father who attends all of our music programs and sits in the front row.  Who laughs when we laugh, and cries when we cry.  He waits patiently for us to find him in the parent section, and then waves when our eyes meet his.  He stays late after everyone has filed out of the gymnasium, and cares enough to pick up a copy of the playbill to post on the refrigerator door when he gets home.  It will remain there long after the concert is over.  

The children in our cub scout den are absorbing these Scriptural truths quickly.  They have wonderful, pure hearts.  We read things like John 3:16 out loud during the meetings.  They seem to understand it inherently.  My hope is that we do also, and that we never stop scanning the parent section, always ready to wave back as soon as we lock eyes.

It occurs to me that someday my kids will come to visit me at the cemetery.  They may forget to bring flowers - I don't care.  They may notice that it's been a while, and some weeds have begun to cover the tombstone.  Never mind.  What matters is that throughout their lives, whenever they saw me in the bleachers and waved, I waved back.  



  1. This is beautiful. Its been almost a year since my mother passed. I go out to the cemetery often. I still smell her and hear her voice.

  2. Thank you, Jon, for the poignant reminder of the way our Heavenly Father looks for us, longs for us and loves us unconditionally!

  3. Yep, here I am crying at my desk. Well said, Jon!

  4. This makes me happy! Today, I'll wave at the sky with smile on my face. ("Hi, God!") And the next time you speak in church...I'll wave.


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