Today my daughter and I wandered through the woods. After three days of cold and dreary weather we weren’t going to miss 60 degrees and a sunny sky. So we put on our sneakers and headed off to Latta Plantation Nature Preserve to play in the woods and eat marshmallows!
We started at the nature playground walking on logs, slack rope, crawling through rope tunnels, and trying a climbing wall. All of this made difficult by our very wet and muddy shoes, thanks to the 4-inches of rain we’ve received. I spent an hour hovering around my daughter, ready to catch her at a moments notice. My goal: to protect her from a slip or fall, a skinned knee, or worst of all; the dreaded muddy hands!
After a time we headed down the trail. Again I was a father-hen, constantly keeping my daughter away from muddy puddles, keeping her on the trail, making sure she didn’t pick up anything too icky. Hiking was fun enough, but soon she wanted up on daddy’s shoulders.
As I picked her up, a verse from Matthew 19 came to mind:
Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them.
I’ve only heard this in the context of antsy kids in a church. Let me rephrase that, I hear it when I shush my antsy kids in church.
I know the historical intention of this story is about putting the least among society first. Children were the bottom rung of society’s hierarchy in Jesus’ time, so commanding people to bring the little children to him was another role revseral. But today, in the 21st century, it took in a different meaning at the moment.
I’ve been listening to Fr. Richard Rohr and he talks about the Cosmic Christ; that Christ existed before he became incarnate in Jesus. In a podcast I can’t remember now, Fr. Rohr spoke of Colossians 1:16-17 where Paul writes:
For in him [Christ] were created all things in heaven and on earth…all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
Was I preventing my daughter from ‘coming to Christ’, whom all things were created through? I know the more I hovered and protected her from nature, the less joy she was finding in it.
So I set her down next to a puddle and stepped back. She poked at the water a bit and after a couple minutes she slyly dipped a toe in the puddle. I asked if she wanted to puddle jump and she nearly came out of her skin with joy! Her shoes were muddy, her socks were wet, but her smile was a mile wide.
The hike back was pure delight and wonder. She ran down the trail to a bridge, slipped on a muddy patch, got up giggling. She found snails that she would have missed if I had hovered. She was loving our hike, the woods, God’s Creation… she was finding joy in God, though she didn’t know it.
So let us not prevent the children from ‘coming to Christ’. Let them run amuck in the Church and in the Woods! Let the little children get muddy, splash in puddles, sing in the rain, and climb to the tops of a tree in search of fun and meet God the Creator & Creation.
As a final thought, by letting my daughter play uninhibited I was flipping the power structure around. She got to make the calls, she decided what she was capable of. By the time we left she was “Super Strong” and climbing things I didn’t think she was ready for.