River Wash

“I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer….” (I Timothy 2:8)

Jacqueline’s hands are dirty, but she doesn’t care. She is four, with river sand plastered to playful fingers; she’s dug a hole, carved a space in mushy soil. It is Sunday, without stiff shoes or hardwood pews.

The stream catches our eye as we explore the tiny town. The four families vacationing together hunt for a place to hold church. We park beside the scrub, scramble down the bank, and dip our toes into the stream. We decide to stay; Jesus would have had church here, too.

But first, we play. We splash and make castles in the mud. Jacqueline crouches close to the water and explores all the possibilities. She scoops the soft soil with her fingers and plops piles of it around her. The mud slides down her arms and creeps up her legs; she is oblivious.

“Who wants to pray?” asks Steve, our designated leader, as he begins the call to his disheveled congregation. Jacqueline raises her hand and hears her name. “OK, Jacqui. Go ahead.”

I watch her now with a mother’s eyes. Hopefully, she’ll talk clearly and slowly. It’s OK. She’s young. Then she stretches out her tiny hands and preaches a sermon with her simple move.

Our daughter bends toward the river and rinses off the dirt. Palms down, she ruffles them in the water. Then tiny fingers fold up and squeeze each other tight.

I do not hear her pray; I do not know if others do. Instead, my mind replays her river wash. She could not pray with dirty hands, could not fold filth between her palms. First, she must let the grime go. Instinctively, she knows the dirt must be washed away before she can pray. Silently, she teaches me volumes.

Often, I choose to come to Him with dirty hands. Regularly, I pour out prayers with smears on my soul, unaware that first I need a river wash. He is the Living Water, willing to wash my grime away. Only four, she taught me well this day.

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