God, Giver of Harmonicas

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“This is faith like a child … To believe the answer is already purchased, that I have only to wait for the proper time.”

I’ve learned, through sermons and study, through living ten years in Somalia and Djibouti, a little bit about suffering. But my six-year old Lucy, with her harmonica, is teaching me about joy.

Lucy started asking for a harmonica for Christmas in October. I asked if she wanted to buy one with her own money and she said, no, she was sure she would get one for Christmas. In November, Lucy sent an email to Grandma Pieh and Grandma Jones, asking for a harmonica. I hit “send” and she immediately asked if she could use the telephone.

“I want to make sure they get the email,” she said.

By Thanksgiving, Lucy was asking for a harmonica every day and asking to email or call both grandmothers every other day.

“I don’t want them to forget,” she said.

In early December a package the size of a small suitcase showed up under the Christmas tree at Grandma Pieh’s house, wrapped in blue snowman paper.

“I think that’s my harmonica,” Lucy said and gave it a gentle shake.

Lucy reminded everyone about her desire for a harmonica but at the same time, she appeared resolutely confident that she was going to receive one. Someone, somewhere, knew what she wanted and loved her and would make sure she got it. Yet she asked. Every. Single. Day.

“What if you don’t get one?” I asked.

“I asked for a harmonica.” She shrugged. “I know someone got me one, I just didn’t open it yet. It isn’t a hard thing.”

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Christmas morning. Lucy opened her first present from her dad and me, a fluffy pink butterfly pillow almost as tall as her. Her face fell.

“I need to call Grandma Pieh,” she said, her voice cracking. “I need to tell her not to forget my harmonica.”

Apparently, mommy and daddy had failed. In reality, we were increasing her delight by making her wait.

Later, at Grandma and Grandpa Pieh’s house, Lucy opened her gifts and found … a harmonica.

Small, aluminum, in a narrow black case lined with red velvet. Lucy stared at the shiny instrument. She held her breath. Then she leaped from her chair and attacked Grandma Pieh with a monster hug. She spun in circles, hugging the harmonica to her chest and tripping over piles of discarded wrapping paper.

“Can you play it?” Grandma asked.

Lucy puffed into the holes. I could barely hear her over the sounds of the other kids opening their gifts and shouting thanks to each other, but I saw the music on her face, in her round, brown bear eyes and in the crinkle of her lips.

After gifts, we sat around the table for Christmas lunch. Roast goose, cheesy potatoes, fruit, salad.

“Who wants to pray?” Grandpa Pieh said.

“I will,” Lucy said. She kept her eyes open and took a deep breath. “Thank you, God, for Christmas. Thank you for my family and for this food. Thank you for Jesus. And now,” she sighed long and deep, “now, I will play a song for Jesus on my new harmonica.”

Her face was solemn, her eyes heavy. She ducked her head and slid the harmonica from her pocket. She cupped it, tenderly, with reverence. She inhaled and blew slow puffs. She swayed her head back and forth in time with the soulful notes. She put her shoulders and elbows into the music and I squeezed my eyes shut tight to keep from laughing or from springing tears.

Lucy stopped, looked around the table at each of us in turn. “Amen,” she whispered and slipped the harmonica back into the pocket of her blue jeans.

“Amen,” I said.

That evening, two hours away, we had Christmas dinner with the Jones family. The table was laden with steak and shrimp and pasta and red wine. Cousins, aunts, uncles, more grandparents.

“I would like to pray,” Lucy said. Again she thanked God for her family. “And now I would like to play a song for Jesus on my new harmonica.”

She repeated the song, note for note. I had to leave the room so as not to disturb the holy moment with choking laughter.

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Lucy played her harmonica while ice-skating and in bed. She played it and danced to her music, she taught herself songs and rhythms. Every time I heard her playing, my heart soared, overflowing with joy and contentment. She loved the gift, she turned it into praise, and I thrilled in her love for it.

This is faith like a child. To pray for something God knows I want with annoying consistency and fervor. To believe the answer is already purchased, that I have only to wait for the proper time. To trust the character of the One I am asking. And when the answer arrives, to turn it into praise.

This is also how God is, the Giver of Harmonicas. I didn’t understand that for a long time. I still don’t fully understand it.

I often look at the good things God gives and feel guilty. He answers prayers beyond what I could dream and I hesitate to throw myself into the joy of it. Instead of diving in, immersing myself in joy, flinging and dancing and spinning, I tiptoe up to the edge of it and dip my toes in the shallows.

I’m afraid. What if I love the gift too much? What about idolatry? What if I make a fool out of myself? What if, in embracing it, I’m using up all of God’s goodness toward me and something bad will happen tomorrow?

This is unbelief. Pride. This is ignoring the profound, unfathomable goodness of God. It is being afraid of his sovereignty.

We would have been crushed if Lucy opened the harmonica, glanced at it, mumbled “thank you,” and set it aside, too embarrassed or afraid to enjoy it.

God promises fullness of joy. In God’s presence is fullness of joy, in His right hand there are pleasures forever. Fullness! Pleasures forever! When we experience full joy, when we give ourselves over to the faith of a child, there is no inhibition, no shame, no fear. Joy spills over, pouring out in the form of a six-year old’s harmonica prayer song for Jesus.

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 Photo credit: Employment Now on flickr

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