I have always been a huge fan of kids. They are the best and cutest teachers. If we were to unpack this here blogsite I would bet the number of posts I have written about something I learned from a kid would outweigh any other topic I have ever delved into; and today is no exception.
Riddle me this, adults: have you ever been standing around, relaxed stance, maybe chatting with someone or looking at your phone or not doing anything at all, and had a small person leap into your arms without warning and without abandon? Little EG and I play this out on the reg, and other children throughout my years have followed this same pattern. It’s cute, and sweet, and of course in the end you’re thrilled to have their affections. But done in such an unexpected manner usually makes my heart skip at least one beat. I will likely give a flustered little “don’t DO that unless I’m ready and/or paying attention!” speech, not because I’m mad, but because I am acutely aware in a way they are not that jumping upon my person without my awareness can cause them (but probably me) actual bodily injury.
The other day as this very scenario played out, I thought, what a beautiful, tangible display of trust that is. I mean, it’s a teensy bit stressful and generally makes my heart do a little cartwheel. (Heartwheel!) But do you remember what that was like? Trusting a person so much that you would fling yourself recklessly into their general direction because you knew deep in your being that you were loved, and as such would be caught, protected, and following a minor scare, delighted in?
As Ella leapt on me the other day and I looked at her happy little face staring at mine expectantly, I had this moment of pure, poignant sadness at the fact that I don’t do that anymore. As grown people, we have maybe had our fair share of experiences where, if only metaphorically, we have gotten dropped. Fell on our faces. We don’t get a job. Somebody breaks our heart. We fail. And we're embarrassed. Ashamed by our recklessness.
Those things, throughout life, are bound to happen every once and again. And as a result, we maybe don’t fling ourselves around so freely anymore. We calculate. We assess risk. We worry and we develop anxieties we then require medication for. We pray and then pray again and we clarify and we ask a bunch of questions and then maybe, just maybe, with a harness so tight it’s cutting off the circulation to our legs, we will make a jump. And after we do, we will worry we made the wrong choice. We will stress about new and different things. The cycle continues.
At some point, we had to learn to do this to protect ourselves from the possibility of harm. I get that. It makes sense, in light of the experiences we have, that we’d be wary. But you guys, it’s no fun. It’s a good skill to have when you’re in danger, but after living with a certain amount of caution, it can start to “protect" us from experiencing the good parts of our lives as well. Good, wonderful things will happen and we will be stuck in a pattern of stress, worry, harness, repeat, and we will miss out. Trusting recklessly can be harmful. But it can also be good. Good that we're missing out on if we're too busy calculating the risk to just take it.
I struggle with this, because I like to be in control, and perceived safety is control’s best friend. When I find myself white-knuckling the ledge, it’s a big statement on how I'm doing, overall. Stewing in a pot of anxiety before I make any decision, big or small, says to me in big bold letters that I am not living in a way that is congruent with what I know to be true about God. Which is, as it were, that he loves me, and as such will catch me, protect me, and delight in doing so. And just because I’ve been hurt before doesn’t mean I should rob myself of the opportunity to be caught, or the people who are deserving of my trust and self being flung at them the opportunity to do the catching. Only maybe I’ll give a little warning so nobody throws their back out. We're getting older, after all.
And there's a good chance in there somewhere I'll fall. But I'll be damned if I'm going to miss out on another second of all the delighting and loving and catching for a little safety of my own careful crafting. It’s so much better as the gift of relationship (both with Jesus and each other) that I know, from experience, it can be.