The Fine Line of Protection

On Friday morning some friends and I brought our kids to the Eagle's Nest, which is THE BOMB of a place for little ones. There's all kinds of climbing and sliding and running to do. In the past, Miles has stayed in the 0-3 year old side for the most part. But this time, he and favorite pal, Olivia ventured to the "big kid" side where there are those McDonald's play land kind of pipe things to crawl through, with fire trucks and bulldozers just their size attached.

Mackenzie and I were watching from below, trying desperately to see where our two little monkeys were, catching a glimpse of them here and there, and breathing little sighs of relief. They would come flying down the slide bouncing and grinning, then they'd burst off the end and continue high-speed, back to the stairs to climb up and do it again. They slowly warmed up to the idea of climbing higher and farther away from us in the "pipes," and gained more and more confidence. As they got more and more confident, Kenzie and I became more and more anxious; "where are they, do you see them?" We spent the whole time with our necks bent back, searching the jungle of color above, holding the smaller of our two children, and pacing back and forth trying to catch little glimpses for reassurance. Every once and awhile we'd give each other a knowing look, like "yeah, maybe we're worrying a bit too much here, but....they're just still so small."

I told Mackenzie that one of the things I struggle with during these times of feeling a bit out of control of your child, is worrying what other kids might say or do that I won't be able to help with. Not that kids are bad, but we all know that they can be mean, or just simply have accidents. So I kept trying to get the picture out of my head that a big burly boy was going to sit on Miles, call him names and then stand up and kick him. Probably not going to happen. And I said to Kenzie that it's so hard to just let it go and accept that I need to sometimes allow those little life hurts to happen. Miles and Asher are only going to learn from them. They will sting sometimes, but they are necessary for growing up. The ugly old truth is that I won't always be there to defend and protect, so I guess my boys should try to figure out what they will do for themselves.

The other thing I fear in that kind of situation is that Miles will get scared or lost and I won't be quick enough to notice or get to him. I picture him standing alone, crying and calling out "Mommy! Mommy! Where are you???" I won't make fun of myself for picturing that one because it did end up happening, and I can't get the picture out of my mind. I was doing the pacing and searching thing, staring up at the pipes, and it took me awhile to spot my little guy in his blue and red Spiderman outfit. When I found him, he was standing in one of the little plastic windows he could look out of, and he looked terrified. He couldn't figure out which way to go to get to the stairs. When he caught sight of me staring up at him from below, his face softened a bit, but then his little lip started quivering as the realization set in that I was somewhere that he couldn't get to on his own, he couldn't find his way. I could read his lips, "Mommy...come. Mommy....come." So I did. I handed Asher to Kenzie and I ran, realizing the rules are NO SHOES at this place, so I pulled off my boots as I went. I kind of had to "take off" my "adultness" as I ran. I went as fast as an adult could go in child-sized piping, and came up behind a very distraught Miles, finger in his mouth, cheeks wet with tears. He immediately brightened and said, "Mommy let's go see the fire truck!" We both breathed a little sigh of relief and made it down to ground level.

I got to thinking later, how much the whole "Eagle's Nest" experience mimics adult life. At least in my life. I can look back and see the times I was allowed to hurt, simply because I needed to grow up, and it was the only way I would notice. Growing up a bit was going to feel a lot better than staying where I was in the long run.

Sometimes people think God is treating us like lab rats in piping, watching to see what we'll do with whatever calamity he strikes on us. I've felt that way before. But this week I learned that it's not like that at all. It's like it is with Miles and me. I was allowing him to be his little self in the piping, to venture out and experience new things and find some joy in fire trucks that appear to me to be far too far above safe ground. I realize that he might get lost or confused and some big lug of a boy might just sit on him. But I'm not telling the big lug of a boy to sit on him, I'm just allowing life to happen because I can't be in the pipe with him, pushing him around like a little robot, totally taking from his experience. Sure, if there were serious danger and he turned to me for direction, I would help. Just as I did when I saw the fear and need in those big blue eyes through that plastic window.

If there were a big gaping hole in one section of piping that a toddler could fall right through to the ground below, I would do everything I could to stop him from going that direction. Maybe all the distractions, lights and sounds around him would make it impossible to hear me, or maybe he'd be having so much fun in his new-found reckless abandon that he would decide to keep going despite my warnings. But I would do my best to give him all the information, to steer him in such a way that would make it clear to him that I'm trying to protect him from harm.

I love analogies. There are too many analogies about the Eagle's Nest to write on all of them, but a few jump out the most. First, I know I'm a lot like Miles and Olivia in their growing confidence to try new things. In new situations or any kind of unknown, I tend to be quite timid at first. I keep checking in with God, asking for direction and needing to just "touch" Him every couple of steps. As I slowly gain confidence, I step farther away, getting more comfortable on my own, until I'm slowly to the point of not even looking back. Then suddenly I realize, I still have no idea what I'm doing, and I haven't asked for help or given thanks for keeping me safe in quite some time. So I just freeze and lose sight of which way I was headed. If my eyes were on a goal, a goal that could be tons of fun, I've looked away from it, staring off into space. I start to miss out on the simple pleasures around me. I start to forget that I was headed somewhere nice. Partly because I feel bad that I've been ignoring my Father, but mostly because I feel lost without His direction. Then I feel like Miles did when he got stuck and couldn't find his way to me. And it takes me awhile to realize that I need help, but when I do, I get a bit overwhelmed and anxious, over-thinking what might happen to me.
And then it happens. Sooner or later I remember to say, "GOD?!...come. God!...come."
Because of this experience with Miles, I now have this awesome picture in my mind of my Father in Heaven coming, ripping off his "Godness" as He comes, making Himself more like me, coming to the "piping" that is my child-sized earth. Then He works His way to me quickly and saves me, shows me the way to freedom, and relieves my fears by replacing them with the safety of being found by Him.

On Friday when we left the Eagle's Nest, Miles held my hand all the way out of the building and to the car. He doesn't really like to do that anymore, now that he's "big," but he wanted to that day. He was reminded that he still needs me. But the best part was when we got in the car, buckled and ready for take off, I asked him if he had fun. Of course the answer was yes!
It was totally worth it. Even though he had those moments of fear, he would do it again, I know he would. He would travel that road again because of all the simple joys it held, despite the toddler crisis.

For me, maybe I wouldn't want to experience the exact same years or experiences and have the same trials all over again. Not many of us would. But going through them shouldn't prevent me from attempting the next thing that's in store for me. Whatever the next seasons of life hold, I don't want to hold back, or to remain comfortable, trying to avoid pain. It really is always for a purpose. And even when it's simply just life happening to me, God will turn it into something good. Just like Miles and I talked about in the car on the way home on Friday. I told him I know that getting lost was scary, but wasn't the rest of it great? We focused on the good parts, the parts that would make him want to continue on. The scary thing that happened for him most likely taught him something. All of the hurts, stressors, pains and trials in his future will also teach him something. I hope they will not keep him from moving on to the "fire trucks" in life; seeking joy, seeking fun, realizing he is taken care of. After all, there is someone "searching the pipes," keeping an eye on him, always.

2 clicked right here to comment:

Sabrina said...

Heather... your analogy was spot-on! I could definetly apply it to a lot of moments in my life. You are a fantastic writer!

MidnightCafe said...

Those are some really great analogies! I find that life with children is a lot like that...you finally get a real glimpse into the parent heart of God.

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