This morning before church, Louisa and I found ourselves sitting at the dining table talking about health care reform and the new tea party movement. I had a TIME magazine in front of me, searching for answers to her questions, and suddenly I missed Nate terribly.
Nate was our personal professor. He never forgot a thing he read, and he was more than delighted to talk history, politics, government, current events. As Louisa and I tried to separate fact from fiction without much success I said, “Papa would have the answers without needing to page through TIME for them. If only he was here.”
“Yeah,” agreed Louisa, sad all over again for missing him.
I was proud of Nate’s intelligence. I leaned on him for it whenever I came up short, which was often. This might have been cause for embarrassment on my part or hurtful teasing on his part, but he delivered answers without judgment, always hoping for more questions.
I remember well the first “stupid” question I asked him. He was in law school, and we were newlyweds of two month’s time. I didn’t know any lawyers on a personal level and knew very little law-related vocabulary. One night when he was studying late, I asked what he was reading. His answered, “A dry, boring sentence that goes on for an entire page.”
“Let me see,” I said, taking the three-inch-thick text to try my luck. I couldn’t understand the first phrase, let alone the entire sentence. I’m not sure what prompted me, but right then I asked my question.
“Is an attorney the same thing as a lawyer?”
Nate looked up and, without pausing, said, “Yes.”
I apologized for my brainless question, fishing for approval or disapproval, and he said, “Don’t ever criticize your intelligence. You’re a smart girl.” I didn’t believe him, but it was a magnanimous response. Forty years later I haven’t forgotten it.
Today Louisa and I felt dim-witted as we asked each other questions. The void left by Nate’s absence at the table seemed cavernous, and that emptiness attached itself to me like dew on grass.
Later I prayed about the problem, and God put a fresh thought into my mind. I believe he wants me to bridge the gap between missing Nate and being thankful for him. As I was longing for his physical presence, his voice, his intelligence, his answers, I should have been able to hop one step further to see the blessing of having had those things in him. It’s not really that big of a stretch.
Scripture says the key to developing this skill is prayer, a powerful force in establishing any new habit. My first and frequent prayer will be, “Hit me over the head with reminders, Lord, so I won’t wander down the path of missing Nate without quickly thanking you for him.” I have hope this will help me and will mean less missing what we don’t have and more appreciating what we did have.
”Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” (Colossians 4:2)