At 8 lbs, 1 oz, she fit perfectly into the crook of my arm. But she didn’t stay there. It is now midwinter, 5 months have passed, and she is unfurling into herself as I watch, making known her preferences and delights, exerting snippets of will and looking to me with trust in her eyes. And one day I realize that she is a parable. She is preaching to me. She is telling me in a living and fluid way about the way that I relate to my Heavenly Father. As she looks to me, so I relate to Him . . . as a little child.
Just as in the parent-child relationship, so life is an interesting mix of give and take, control and surrender, choice and dependence; basically of human responsibility interacting with the sovereignty of an Almighty God. Some of what our life is or becomes is a product of what we are and what we do, the decisions we make. But, just as this little one finds as she grows up in the midst of a busy household, there are many, many things that fall outside of our realm of control, and often we are at the mercy of circumstances, and events, and the lot that falls to us, without even a shred of say. We co-write our story, and much of the narrative is in the hands of Another. It has been said that, in large part, “we don’t get to choose our story, we get to make peace with it” (Voskamp).
So on that day when the world tilts, and everything seems to slide awry, and the straight road that I have sought to make and travel makes a hairpin turn, what am I to do?
The day that I am turning this over in my mind, I happen to look at that sweet and podgy 5-month-old playing on the floor at my feet, toys all around, happily rolling hither and yon, windmilling arms and legs, happy to be awake, fed, and playing, free of all restraints. She is so precious to me, and this is how I like to see her. In fact, I was the one who fed her, and I was the one who arranged the toys and the playmat for her pleasure, and I am also the one who is watching and alert, ready to attend to her needs as they present themselves. But all she knows is that she likes where she is, and I assume she would be happy if nothing ever changed.
I know and am aware, however, of so many factors that are beyond her comprehension.
She doesn’t realize that she is growing. I can’t help but see it, and I mourn that this growing up really does go way too fast – where did my sleepy newborn go? But our vantage points, hers and mine, are so different. She doesn’t know that she can’t and won’t stay immobile in a jumble of toys forever. Soon she will be able to propel herself to stairs, and woodstoves, and all sorts of dangerous things. It is my job to make room for her development and protect her from the dangers that will emerge because of it.
But also, she doesn’t take into account that this state of happiness that depends on the full belly, and the empty nappy, and the adequate sleep quota can’t last. I am well aware that the drawer full of nappies is there for a reason, and it will need to be refilled at some point, and this is a healthy thing. I know that, in a short amount of time, the yawns will start, and she’ll rub her eyes, and I will need to snuggle her into bed for a much-needed nap. And I know that she will wake up hungry, and not be satisfied until her belly is full of warm creamy goodness. Her happy condition as it is in this moment is not static, because she is not static, and it simply cannot last. As things change, she will be required to change with them, or suffer. But at this happy moment, all that eludes her.
And soon, I am right. Things change. She starts to tire, and smell. And I know that to leave her with her toys would be neglect. It would not be kind. Much as she might like to stay where the shiny baubles are, she needs to be carried to where her more important needs will be met. She will have to leave the freedom of the floor and be carried in my arms. She will give up her own agency so I can ensure she is clean and cared for. And she will fuss when I put her in her bed, thinking that this isn’t at all what she was hoping for. But soon, sleep will overtake her and she will wake with a sparkle in her eye, and a smile on her face, recharged and ready for her next play session.
So I pick her up and carry her to where she needs to go. This time she surrenders to my care, and it is an enjoyable ride to the bedroom. But sometimes she fights the restraint and the journey, and makes it known that she is not in favour of this ride. However, because I must attend to her greater needs, whether she fights me or surrenders, the end is the same. She will learn in time (lots of time), that this ride has a purpose, and it is for her good. And if she can accept that and trust me, she will learn to surrender and save herself a lot of struggle.
So it is in life. There are times when it seems that we have been picked up off the playmat, and we feel the agency shift from our own to Another’s. There are times when, just like that little child, we know we are being carried somewhere, but we don’t know where, or why, or how long it will take to get there.
And when we notice that God has picked us up and is carrying us somewhere new and unfamiliar, we might ask ourselves: can we trust that He has a reason, and it’s a good one? Can we relax and enjoy the ride, rather than fight Him all the way? Can we surrender to His loving care, knowing that He is a good Father, and He is not willing to neglect us simply because we can’t understand the big picture? Can we remember that His will is what’s best, and surrender to it according to His plan and schedule, saving ourselves a lot of struggle?
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). Relax. Rest in His arms and let Him carry you. Trust that He’s taking you just where you need to go. And always, always remember, that no matter how long the ride might be, how unfamiliar the landing, and how unnerving the change might feel, He has promised that He will never leave you or forsake you (see Isaiah 41:10). You are precious to Him, and He will do all in His power to help you grow and meet your needs, even when, as a little child, you can’t grasp the overarching plan, or understand His ways. Just trust.
“Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He will bring it to pass” (Psalm 37:5).
Photo credit: Zach Vessels