Most of my grade school years took place on a tiny island off of the Malaysian peninsula. My missionary parents were unable to secure permanent visas into India, the land to which God called them, but were able to acquire student visas for my brother and me and tourist visas for themselves to Malaysia. Every few months, we would have to leave Malaysia for at least 24 hours according to the stipulations of my parents’ visas. As a result, we spent the school term in Malaysia and every school holiday we could visiting Bible colleges and churches in Chennai (then Madras), Bangalore, and Secunderabad, India.
After our first two-and-a-half year term in Malaysia, my family returned home on furlough for a year. On the weekends (and sometimes on Wednesday nights) my parents traveled to churches that supported us monthly and shared about the work to which God had called them. My brother and I enrolled in public school and endeavored to adjust to life in the United States again.
Near the end of our year “home,” my brother (who is an extraordinary musician) competed in a statewide fine arts festival. The judges at the competition recognized his talent and extended to him an invitation to compete on a national stage. The only drawback was that the national competition was scheduled for late in the summer, after our family was scheduled to return to Malaysia and set up housekeeping in our new home before the start of the next school term. My parents discussed options and agreed that my dad and I would travel on our originally scheduled departure date and get settled, and my mother and brother would join us after the competition.
I do not remember much about the trip with my dad other than that we had a layover in an airport hotel and my skinned knees had bled and stuck to my tights (why do we most often remember the unpleasant things?). My first coherent memory of the trip takes place the morning after we arrived in Malaysia. My Dad and I were sharing a small room in a building I knew as “The Office.” We were preparing to lease a house in another part of the island, but we had to wait to move in for a few months until the end of the current lessees’ lease. We spent the intervening months in an office building/dormitory, sharing living space with a few YWAM students. On the morning after Dad and I arrived at our temporary home at the office, I awakened early in the predawn hours—a victim of the jet lag that accompanies traveling halfway around the world.
I tried to rest on my cot without making a sound, aware even as an upcoming fourth grader that my dad was weary from travel. Then a weaving motion on top of a nearby bookshelf caught my eye.
Let me pause to insert here that a few years before, two weeks after we had moved to Malaysia for the first time, I found a baby viper coiled behind my bedroom door. I was five years old. The experience had left a marked terror of all snakes within me.
In the dim, early morning light, the gentle bobbing that had caught my eye from the top of the bookshelf looked like the serpentine twisting of a snake. My eyes began telling me that said snake was making a slow path off the shelf and would be on the floor soon. I resisted the urge to shriek and felt my limbs freeze to my little cot. For what felt like hours, I watched and waited for the moment that I would find myself face to face with my most feared enemy.
Finally, fear mastered all attempts at reason. In my tiniest voice—”Daddy?”
My father’s voice cut through the half light with an immediate response from across the room. In retrospect, he was probably fighting the effects of jet lag also, but my young mind only grasped that now I had someone bigger and stronger to face my foe and keep me safe. I hesitantly explained what was frightening me, and Dad rose to flip the light switch without question. Brilliant fluorescent bulbs illuminated the face of my terror—a lone plastic bag stored on top of the shelves. Dad never protested the inconvenience of sleep disturbed or told me I was being silly. He calmly removed the bag and cut the lights again so that both of us could try to get some more rest before beginning the day.
The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry.
I love Psalm 34:15, and I think of my experience with the snake/plastic bag when I read it. I spent long moments in abject terror because I had convinced myself that my father was sleeping and I should not bother him. The mixture of relief and gratitude that flooded through me at hearing his voice is hard to describe. He validated me with his instant response and unquestioning support. My tiny fear mattered to him.
In the same way, God’s ears are always opened to those who love Him. Our tiny heart issues still elicit a response from Him when we call Him. We waste copious amounts of time fearing shadows in the dark, but our Father is always there with ears straining to hear the smallest cry and turn on the lights. He is invested in the little things as much as He is in the larger issues. There is nothing too inconsequential to bring before Him.
Speak. He is listening.