Learning to walk

"Pull yourself together, Job. Up on your feet. Stand tall. I have some questions for you, and I want some straight answers. Where were you when I created the earth? Tell me, since you know so much. Who decided its size? Certainly you'll know that!"
(Job 38:3-5, The Message)

My daughter has reddish hair, blue eyes -- and a purple bruise on her cheek.

She's about a year old now, so she's learning to walk. She's getting pretty good at it, too. Just yesterday I was standing in my kitchen, back to the door, when I heard the pitter-patter of little bare feet on linoleum.

There she was, my beautiful angel, lips tersed in concentration, eyes wide with excitement and pride, doing a sort-of one-step-then-hop thing. Guess you had to see it to know what I mean. (Unless, of course, you too have a little one learning to walk.)

Then, just as she had come into view, she swayed. It was almost as if an invisible wind snuck its way into our kitchen. She stopped, eyes growing wider. She looked at me, helpless. Then, she unceremoniously fell to her rear with a thud. There were no tears, just as I knew there wouldn't be. Instead, she stuck her tongue out just the slightest little bit, then grinned widely and yelled, "DaDEEE!!!"

So I picked her up.

Here's one of the (many) things I'm learning as a new parent: Sometimes, I need to let her fall.

It's hard, watching her best efforts come crashing to the floor. But I know something she doesn't: if I don't let her fall, she'll never learn that there are consequences. She has to learn that turning one way is OK. Turning another -- and too rapidly -- brings that linoleum rushing toward her.

There's a lesson in the rude force of the floor, and it's one she has to learn on her own. I can't catch her every time she stumbles and explain to her what would happen if I hadn't done so. She won't understand. One day, when she is more mature, her mind more fully developed, I can reason with her: "If you drink and drive, you could be killed." "If you smoke that cigarette, you could get cancer."

Last week, I turned my daughter loose to walk to my wife in that same kitchen. She took two steps, then three, then four. Then, it happened: that invisible wind of imbalance and poor motor skills took over.

Except this time she didn't fall on her butt, and once I realized she wasn't going to, it was too late. In trying for one last-ditch effort to reach her mommy, she lunged forward ... and fell face-first into the refrigerator. She howled with pain, and when her mommy picked her up, she looked at both of us with a sad sort of accusatory glare. Her tears seemed to say, "Why did you let that happen?" I didn't have an answer -- I had made a poor decision not to intervene.

I don't know why God allows things to happen. I really hate my job right now. I had a very bad back injury a couple years ago that still gives me fits. My wife is stressed with her job, too. Why do these things happen when they hurt so, so much?

There's a lesson in them. I understand that much more clearly now that I'm a parent. God sees us swaying in the winds of life. Sometimes He catches us. Other times He lets us fall. And some times, it hurts.

One more story. A while ago, I left my daughter lying on the bed while I walked away -- just for a second, I promise! -- to grab another diaper. In that short instant, she rolled to her stomach and crawled toward the edge. I couldn't catch her in time. She fell with a thud, and I scooped her up in my arms and cradled her tightly, all while she cried into my shoulder. How terrible I felt! How irresponsible!

She is fine, of course. As soon as I took her outside to see the neighbor's dogs, she forgot all about the fall and instead directed her attention to pulling their mangy hair. All was right in the world.

God never does that. He never looks away, even for a second. He's never irresponsible. Oh, how I love Him for that!

Sure, I get angry with God sometimes. I want to shake my fist at Him and ask, "WHY?!"

Then, I remember. He's always there, every time I walk -- and if I fall, I know there's a reason for my pain.

It's because, in that moment, my God loves me too much to catch me -- and loves me enough to pick me up when I cry.

(copyright andrew j. beckner, 2006)


Mom said...

Honey your entries just take my breath! Thank you! I love you! Mom

Jack Cummings said...

Very nice. I couldn't agree with you more. It is funny that most of the times when a kid falls, they never give up. I have never met a 4 year old that couldn't walk because they had taken a bad fall when they were trying to learn. I have met a lot of Christians - at times myself included - who would have called this article "Learning to Sit".