Sweaty palms squeaked across the concrete wall.
I looked down, and I saw my child, hands cupped over her face, body pressed tightly against the white bricks like a clinging vine, a true wallflower.
She slid around the corner of the Sunday School room and inched through the doorway.
Bright posters and small children everywhere, it smelled like bleach. And cheerios. And vaguely of bacon.
Lily was convinced that this class was not a good idea. She did not care for crowds of kids. Or crowds. Or kids. Their ways were not her ways. She was six going on forty. Clean and quiet and well-read. Not like the sticky savages in that Sunday School class.
The teacher and I looked at each other. “Do you want to come to storytime, Lily?”
Forget those crunchy carpet squares. Lily backed up to the plastic table far behind the story circle and looked at me.
I sat on the little table, and she held tight to my arm.
“Daniel in the Lion’s Den” was the day’s felt board feature. My daughter was not impressed. She gazed out the window and twirled her hair with her free hand, the hand not clutching my arm.
She stayed close to me for the entire hour.
Some people had theories about how we should raise Lily–she needed discipline, we were told. She needed bribes. She needed something, anything, different than whatever we were doing at the moment.
But, sometimes, kids just need time. And an arm to hold on to.
Near the end, about half the kids took turns leading the class in short songs. They were pink cheeked and earnest and endearingly off-key. The teacher thanked each one and was ready to dismiss.
But, before I knew it, my daughter was at the front of the room. I looked down at the fingerprints she left behind on my arm and back at her. She stood calmly near the felt board, small golden felt lions looking out over her shoulders, their mouths decisively shut.
I stared. My mouth fell open. A first grader walked by and dropped a cracker in it.
The teacher said, “Oh! Lily! I’m so glad you joined us! Did you want to sing a song?”
Lily announced, “Yes! I am going to sing ‘Jesus Loves Me’ and do the sign language.”
Which she proceeded to do, loud and clear. I didn’t even know she knew “Jesus Loves Me” with the sign language.
When she was finished, the teacher said, “Lily. Now, do you think you could do that a couple more times so the rest of us can learn?”
“Oh, yes,” Lily said, and led the class in the song, with the sign language, a couple more times so everyone could learn.
Then they were finished. Lily walked to me and smiled.
The teacher and I looked at each other. Shook our heads. Kids.
I was stunned by the transformation in my child. One minute, a trembling, clutching case of social anxiety. The next, a cabaret choir conductor.
We didn’t talk on the way out. Or, rather, I didn’t talk on the way out. Lily chattered and held my hand. She talked about the morning all the way to the car and then halfway home.
When she paused to take a breath I said, “Lily, can I ask you something? Can you help me understand what just happened in there? One minute you seemed really scared, and then the next minute, you were leading a song. What changed???”
“Oh,” she said. “Well. First, I wanted to sing my song. Then, I didn’t want to sing it. Then, I knew it. The debble was trying to steal my song. And I thought, ‘oh no, I am not letting that debble steal my song.’ So I got up there, and I sang it. And Mom. You know a spirit of fear is not from God, it’s from the debbles.”
All those nights sitting by her bed, teaching her scriptures to ward off screaming night terrors.
She had actually listened.
What song are you longing to sing?
Don’t you let the debble steal that song.
For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 2 Tim 1:7