The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness can never extinguish it. ~John 1:5 NLT
Three angels perched on our lawn. They were all a little forward leaning, tethered by rope and peg against the grade of the hillside which tugged them and threatened to topple them. But they stood sturdy and stalwart, against rain, snow, sleet and high wind. As the world waited for the Christ child, they stood their ground. Halo’s aloft, they each held fast to an item and presented it before them. Two of them held books — hymnals or Bibles, we could never be sure — while the middle one held the light, a special candle with a flickering bulb.
Each angel we inscribed with a name, specifically, one of the names of our three daughters. Not to proclaim that they were angels, but rather to designate which wings went with which body when we pieced them together each year and made ready to place them on the lawn. Our two oldest daughters held the books while our youngest was singled out to hold the light. This responsibility she took to heart. The light she held shone in the darkness all night until the rays of the morning quenched it.
Until one year, upon returning from the Christmas Eve service, we noticed that the little angel’s light was not lit. On closer examination we discovered that the bulb had not gone out: it was missing. Someone had stolen the angel’s light. Big tears rolled down our little girl’s cheeks. Yes, because an unkindness had been done and a theft had been committed, but most of all because the little angel, her little angel, could not present the light of Christ.
In this tiny, earth-shattering moment our small daughter saw that the forces of darkness in this world are real and they are on a mission to extinguish the light. Her world would never be the same. As I hugged my teary child, searching for words of explanation as comfort, her dad knew just what to do. He raced into the house and emerged a moment later holding a small box with a replacement bulb. We held our breath as he screwed it back into place and the light was restored. Our daughter beamed with joy.
The light shone in the darkness; darkness did not extinguish it.
“Can I tell you a secret?” I whispered to the little boy.
The very little boy
who told me he was two
as he climbed across the table
after dumping the entire contents of the bag of blocks
onto the floor
after emptying the cart full of plastic food
into the plastic sink and
trying unsuccessfully to shove the
plastic dish-drainer into the oven
in a way that would allow the door to actually close.
Oh, but he knew how to operate the microwave,
deftly punching its buttons to activate
its pretend revolving tray
then sifting through several plastic plates
searching for the round yellow ones that
were the right size for what he was preparing,
discarding all others in self-selected directions.
The chair I pulled up to this kitchen table
accommodated only part of my backside,
so I plunked myself onto the floor
and drew my glasses onto the bridge of my nose
that I might see the story of the day,
left open to the page where today’s lesson was featured.
“Can I tell you a secret?” I whispered to the little boy
who earlier I had snagged,
wrapping him with one arm as he sprinted
in attempted escape from his grandmother
who held fast to his little brother.
Now, there is a pause in the kitchen preparations
as the little boy takes Mr. Potato Head glasses
previously perched on his head and affixes them
upside down across the bridge of his nose,
their pliable arms reaching out to grab his temples
well short of the ears they would not have looped.
Spectacle to spectacle, we gaze at each other,
this little boy and I, he on home turf
and me very far from mine.
“Can I tell you a secret?” I whisper to the little boy
who now draws very close
because secrets are meant to be shared, quietly,
ear to ear.
Co-conspirators we are now.
“Yes,” the little boy whispers
as he comes near.
We look together for a moment at the page
of faces that don’t look like his,
of people not dressed like him
of words that have no meaning to him.
“This is the secret.” I say, “Are you ready?”
He is ready.
“Jesus is alive,” I whisper.
“Jesus is alive,” he whispers,
because secrets are for telling
when you’re two.
But you must whisper.
I just can’t imagine God saying, “Sit down and shut up!” Can you?
Or, “Children should be seen and not heard.”
Or even, “Sit still and mind your manners.”
Yes, we are children, daughters and sons of the Most High. But, “sit up and eat your peas,” just isn’t the conversation I expect to have at the table with God. Odd, though, that if we grew up in harsh strictness and belittledness, if we were ignored, disrespected, or God help us, abused, this notion of being children at the right hand of a father takes on an unwelcomeness. In self-preservation we learn to keep quiet and stay out of the way.
God has never been a God of self-preservation. Certainly not for children.
Yes, holy discipline surely is God’s kindness, that we learn to observe boundaries, respect rules and honor elders helps it go well for us. But sit still and be quiet … that just doesn’t feel like God to me.
In the space at God’s feet there is plenty of space to get the wiggles out. I imagine God chortles at my antics and shakes a head at my mischief, but confines me to one square foot on the rug? Nah. No loving parent would think that a good thing for a child.
And I am that Child.
To me, God has always said, go ahead and move. It’s way easier, then, to guide me in the right direction. That way, overcoming inertia will never be God’s problem with me.
My book, Made to Move: Knowing and Loving God Through Our Bodies, takes this approach. God made us to move and, through movement, to learn about and grow into ourselves. Of course, once we’re mature, a good dose of self discipline can help us still the outside so we can attend to the movement inside.
Lungs…expanding and releasing.
Muscles…stretching and lengthening.
Joints…relaxing and allowing.
Blood… coursing and flowing.
Thoughts…expanding and defining.
And there’s life itself, feeling kind of like it did when we were a kid. I am God’s kid and so are you. Let’s go ahead and act like it.