for release Friday June 17, 2005
by Melodie Davis
Free-giveness and Other Truths From Children
One father shared how his boys had been overtired and a bit testy on a recent late evening. As Wayne was putting five-year-old Nathan to bed, the little boy put his arms around his dad and implored, “Daddy, free-give me.”
Oh the wonderful things small children do with words! Inventing new ones, they bring totally new pictures to our brains.
One called grape juice “purple milk.” Another, noticing one of my first strands of gray in my hair said, “It looks like you have tinsel in your hair.” Somehow I didn’t mind it so much with her word—it was celebratory, a piece of magic.
Small children, in spite of being maddening to the point of exhaustion and exasperation, in general have such a beautiful way of helping us get in touch with God, our larger priorities and our emotions. These little people come to us fresh from the realm of God—wherever it is that our souls and spirits reside. We would do well to pay attention to the lessons they teach—inadvertently and at times, out loud.
“Free-give me”—what a concept. It goes a bit beyond forgiveness and hints at the true beauty of what happens when we truly forgive—we give ourselves and the other person a chance to let go of nasty, even tragic experiences and bitter feelings, and the freedom and the opportunity to move on.
Another woman told how her son spoke volumes to her one day during an elongated grace. He had launched one of his never-ending, name everything on the table, name all of his favorite toys, friends, pets, and for good measure, his un-favorite foods to boot—prayers. The family knew their Sunday dinner was not only growing cold, but crusty. When he was gently hurried along in his prayer by a well-meaning parent, he stopped and said, “Dad, you’re not supposed to interrupt people when they’re talking to God. Now I am just going to have to start over.”
Luckily, by this time, he was getting hungry, too and brought his second prayer to a quick conclusion. After microwaving the food that had grown cold, this mother said it was a blessed reminder of how indeed, even children shouldn’t be interrupted when they’re talking to God. These parents probably needed some free-giveness, too.
Words from children oftentimes take the form of an honest question and help us get back in touch with some forgotten truth about God. I was driving the preschool carpool with a little boy named Brian. In the busy weeks before Christmas, he was chattering about not believing in Santa, cause how could he come down a chimney? Then this four-year-old followed up by asking, “Why doesn’t God come down?” Good question! I thought he meant something along the lines of why doesn’t God come down and be visible and responded accordingly. But it made me ponder the great theological truth of how we do see God in the world.
Sometimes children offer a simple gesture, or even just a touch or hug that speaks more than words.
One of my favorite stories along these lines comes from a book, The Ministry of the Child, by Dennis C. Benson and Stan J. Stewart (Abingdon Press, 1979), about a woman who had just discovered lumps in her body, and was awaiting tests. She (and her minister) were expecting the worst, because she had not been looking or feeling well for weeks. The minister searched long and hard for just the right text to use in his Sunday sermon, the right prayers and the right words. He knew she would be looking for a word from God through him as a minister, a word of comfort.
“Sometimes, the more you prepare, the worse it gets. That Sunday the worship was heavy. The fine phrases didn’t flow, the warmth I so much wished to project seemed to have evaporated.” He felt like he was delivering her eulogy instead of a word of hope and comfort.
As the minister launched into his third point, “a small toddler left his parents in a pew and made his way down the aisle. [At her row] he paused, turned, and climbed on the seat. He sat there beside her. I don’t think he said anything, just snuggled in. Her arm encircled him. He responded with a hug. He sat with her for only a minute or so, and then he went back to his parents. But, her face! I saw it. Warmth and hope once again lived in her eyes, courage shone in her bearing. She had received her gospel for the day…. As I walked home, I thought about the way … we presumed that messages from God could come only through the pulpit. I thought about [what she said on her way out]. ‘The service was such a help,’ she said. I knew why, and I thanked God.”
Thank God for the special children in your life, no matter what age they are and no matter who their parents are. And allow their sometimes eternal questions and babbling to help you get in touch with eternal priorities.
Read more stories of truths arising out of family life in my free book, Why Didn’t I Just raise Radishes: Finding God in the Everyday. Write to me at Another Way, Box 22, Harrisonburg Va., 22802, or e-mail email@example.com (Please include your paper's name in your response.)
You can also visit Another Way on the Web at www.thirdway.com.
Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three daughters.
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