We're involved in a ministry called Alpha. Designed to lead people to Christ, or to answer the questions of those new to faith in Him, the program runs for 10-12 weeks at a time. Last night was the final gathering of this session. Ten people were baptized. Me, I always get emotional when someone takes that leap; the most teary I've ever gotten was actually in the last session, when my best friend J. (who was, I think, 8 months pregnant at the time) was baptized. Now that was emotional!
Last night, though, all my tears were saved for the special presentation that the children perform at the end of each full Alpha session. We have a wonderful, spirited music director that teaches the children songs, handsigns and skits. This go-round, to keep things fresh (for those of us who have been through nine Alphas!) the director added in an essay component. The children were challenged to select a name of God and to write about it, backing their thoughts of with verses that spoke to them about that name.
Jo was absolutely in love with the idea of the project. Being the resourceful homeschooling mom that I am, I realized that the challenge would make a perfect writing assignment while we were out of town and she was staying with friends. Jo wrote her essay at their house, and turned it in on the evening that we picked her up. I never saw it.
So imagine my surprise when the music director called last week and let me know that Jo was the only one who had actually done the challenge. She would be presenting her essay, called "Bread of Life," at the big performance.
I could tell you all sorts of wonderful things about that performance. I could tell you how Atticus actually remembered the sign language, which was amazing given his usual stoicism on stage. I could tell you how Jo danced, with her hands spread high, without a shred of self-consciousness. I could tell you how Logan made faces and exaggerated signs the whole time, cracking me up.
But you know what got me? What really, really got me? Right before my daughter climbed down from the risers and took her place at the microphone, the projection screen over the heads of the choir lit up. There, in letters 4-feet high, was my little girl's name.
It took her maybe five seconds to walk to that microphone. She was lanky and lean, with her funky pink Converse All-Stars and her bright cherry-red glasses and the smattering of freckles on her nose that I couldn't make out in the stage lights. In that brief moment, I remembered the very first time I said her name and looked at her fat, naked little body in my arms. I remembered the taste of that name, the unfamiliar sound of it in my ears. Nearly a decade between that moment and this, and yet ... that name. Who I had wanted her to be. Who she was. Who God intended her to be. All of it, tied up in that name for me at that moment.
Of course, I was crying before she even picked up the mic. She handled herself beautifully, stumbling here and there over her own handwriting, but maintaining an enviable decorum. The words that she had written were mature beyond her years, and expressed a faith that stuns me even now. And they were hers--all hers. No word suggestions from me, no direction or form pre-decided. All her.
Like her name. And the Lord's. So much meaning tied up in just a few letters.