When Andrea was 4 years old, we had the privilege of visiting a Buddhist monastary while we were vacationing in Hong Kong. We were fascinated by the richly ornate temples, the exotic and peaceful aura, the lush manicured gardens. Young orange-robed monks silently did chores and worshipped en masse in an open-walled temple. A few older monks seemed engrossed in matters of the day.
We broke away from the small group to admire the Temple to the Sky and take a few tourist photos when we noticed a young monk watching us. We smiled, and he respectfully approached us. I'll never forget the look in his eyes...awestruck might be the best word. He knelt in front of our daughter. He looked into her blue-green eyes, and she looked back with quiet trust. He put his hand on her head, and held it there for what felt like several long minutes. It was an odd and awkward moment for Ron and me, but it felt holy....so we said nothing.
He pulled back his hand, stood up and said to me in hushed broken English, "She very special. She touched by the spirit." "We know" I said, and we did know by then. He impulsively removed a string of amber prayer beads from his wrist, knelt again in front of her, and put it into her little hands. He looked again into her eyes, and then rushed away.
Our Chinese tour guide raced up to us and gasped "That was very rare. I've never seen a monk talk to a tourist. Never. What did he want? What did he say?" I remember her shaking her head in silent amazement.
At our former church, she earned her Bible in third grade, as all Presbyterian third graders do. We were out of town, though, when the pastor presented the Bibles during a service, so we thought we'd just pick hers up later. "No" said the pastor. "She's special." So the next week, he presented it to only her during the morning service. To this day, it's still the Bible she reads and carries to church.
When we were shopping for a new church, we plotted out a calendar of Sunday visits to various local congregations. The first church visit was a disaster....we were uncomfortable and frankly a bit horrified. Ron and I were much happier with the second church we visited...the sermon was interesting and on-target, the pastor was likeable and positive, the people were friendly to new faces. It was when we got into the car that we knew. "How was Sunday School?" we asked 9 year old, almost 5th grader Andrea. In a startling voice that I still remember....it sounded firmer and deeper, more mature than normal, she announced, "This is where I want to go to church."
So we do.
She got involved in a Bible study program that we knew nothing about, and she came home with a medal from what was apparently her first competition. (We didn't even attend...we had no idea.) She spent two years in that program, and demonstrated an extraordinarily deep, almost intuitive grasp of the Bible. We were shocked. She won accolades at every meet she attended, and grew in her knowledge of the Word in a way that still defies our imaginations.
She's 12 now and a 7th grader. She has many gifts and talents....she's considered a math prodigy and gets perfect report cards. She's won truly surprising awards we can't even tell others about because they get jealous, and I guess no one needs to know, anyway. In high school. she'll be at the top. She'll be recruited by top universities, and have her choice of paths.
I can't even recall all those who've commented to us over the years,"She's so different" and "She's so special." They sense her stillness,her deep faith, her servant's heart, but they can't put their finger on it. Teachers look at us with odd stares, and most have little to say. (This year, one simply asked if she was bored.)
Yesterday before school, like a responsibly curious mom, I noticed something in her front pocket. "Taking your allowance?" I inquired.
"No" she said a tad sheepishly. "It's a Bible. I take it everyday now."
I've never wanted her to be a pastor. It's a hard life, and even harder for women. She's a first class talent, and women pastors are accorded second-class treatment, at best. Her peaceful insightfullness....her sweet soul....her incredible grasp of God's word will be buried beneath a pile of politics, egos and budgets. Her gifts will be wasted. I couldn't stand to see her message lost amid the rubble of others' ambitions and prejudices. I will not stand for it.
But she now takes her Bible everywhere with her, including middle school. She relies on it every hour of her life. I know that her faith and her church are at the core of her being. At 12, she's maturing, and I see where her heart and soul are held captive.
So yesterday, I conceded in an email to a pastor that someday, perhaps later in life, she will inevitably attend seminary. It was a VERY hard note for me to write....but I did. When I told her about the email, she cheered with joy.
The day the monk put his amber prayer beads into her hands, I took them from my 4 year old and tucked them into a hidden, safe compartment in my purse. I've carried them in my purse everyday since then. I took them out today, and they're sitting here in front of me right now. I have tears in my eyes.
Someday soon, I'll give her the beads.
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