The childhood world of play. Has it really been so long since I was there?
Every time I catch a glimpse into childhood imagination, it comes like a refreshing shock of fresh air. Looking in as a stranger now, I spy gold nuggets of spiritual truths hidden away in the child’s world of make-believe. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it“ (Mark 10:15).
I am shocked to see how much little Charlie has grown since the last time I babysat him and his three sisters. He is no longer a baby, but is a two-year-old child with personality, a vocabulary, and yes, a hint of mischief behind those china blue eyes.
I quickly learn too that he has feet that can’t be still.
I am snuggled into the couch, reading Christopher Churchmouse with three little girl heads pressed closely to mine, when I hear the unmistakable slam of the screen door.
Instantly I jump to my feet and three little girl heads tumble into the cushion. Images of Charlie wandering into the street of flying cars flash through my mind. Stricken, I sprint out the door, not bothering to put on my shoes and leaving three tousled heads pouring in puzzlement over Christopher Churchmouse stuck at the bottom of a rain drain.
But, there is Charlie, running full speed across the driveway, his little arms pumping vigorously.
Breathless, I run after him. “Charlie, wait! Where are you going?”
“I’m goin’ to work!” He shouts back. Of course, why hadn’t I thought of that? I slacken my pace a bit and step carefully across sharp stones to where Charlie now stands beside his father’s parked golf cart.
“What kind of work?” But Charlie isn’t listening. With professional determination and amazing alacrity for short stubby legs and chubby little fists, he swing himself up into the front seat of the cart and positions himself onto a booster seat that I now see was strategically placed there for just such an occasion
Work has commenced.
For the next fifteen minutes, I stand in silent wonderment as Charlie is lost in another world. He spins the wheel with dexterous vigor until he sputters to a halt, leaps down and runs to take his seat in a Fisher Price Grand Coupe. His little feet fly him around in circles, finally crashing the Coupe into the grass, just where it’s meant to be. This is the “loading site” where sticks and stones and grass and worms are pitched into the trunk and eventually transported back to the golf cart. On and on the cycle goes, the little arms and legs constantly moving, the blond brow furrowed in concentration, the tiny mouth lisping orders to anyone who might be listening.
After minutes of watching silently and unnoticed, dodging buckets of grass and speeding traffic, I ask again: “Charlie, what are you doing?”
“I’m working. Like Daddy.” And china blue eyes meet mine with such a look of pride and joy, I couldn’t believe this was a toddler I am talking to. My heart is warmed with the delight this two-year-old took
in imitating his daddy.
Watching him scurry from cart to car to grass, I am reminded of sticky summer days, jumping from one large muddy footprint to the next, following Daddy’s bobbing pole through forest, field and swamp to a hidden away fishing hole. Just being with my father, me trying my best to please him, and his pleasure is seeing me try — is a joy like no other.
It is the same relationship my heavenly Father desires to have with me — a parent and child finding joy in each other’s presence, the child eager to show her love by doing what makes her father happy. “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:1,2).
Because of the love that has been poured into my life and the light that has illumined my soul through the salvation that God mercifully worked in me, I want to resemble Him, my twice-Creator. It is because of love, not fear or compulsion as a slave dreading his master’s wrath, but as a beloved child basking in her father’s presence. The more time I spend with Him, the more I learn of Him; and the more I learn of Him, the more I desire His image to be impressed on me.
A two-year-old’s sticks and rocks don’t earn his daddy’s love. It’s because his daddy already loves him that his “work” has meaning. It is an exhibition of love’s fruits and a gift of gratefulness. His daddy leaves a booster seat on the front seat of the golf cart, not because he needs assistance or wants to prove his son’s affection, but he knows when father and son are aligned in will and purpose, their relationship is most fulfilling. The work itself is merely an outpouring of that relationship.
“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are…Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. ” (1 John 3:1-2). Being called by the Father out of darkness and adopted as His child of light, I am called to walk now in the light, to reflect His character of holiness that He reveals to me more and more each day. But it really isn’t me affecting the change, it is His Spirit in me that molds me into His image until glory. In eternity, I won’t fall over into the mud as I strain to follow His steps. I will know Him without the impediment of a mind clouded by sin and I will clearly see what is pleasing to Him.
But for now, I try my best to do His will, knowing that often it is as weakly attempted as tossing sticks into the trunk of a Fisher Price car. But I also know that the Holy Spirit meets me in my weaknesses and when my Father looks at me, He doesn’t linger His gaze on my feeble works, but sees the heart of a sinful child who desires to please Him. There He finds delight and in the warmth of His love, I find joy.