Family camp was winding down to the final service on Sunday night. The children’s program coordinator had already gone home with a sick child. With no childcare provided I chose to take my four-year-old grandson and two-year-old granddaughter to the playground. That way my daughter and son-in-law could participate in the service unencumbered by the demands of active and somewhat fatigued children.
Not for the first time I acknowledged the energy differential between my grandchildren and me. Neither of them seemed to walk, especially not at my preferred pace. Nor did they stay at any one play area for long.
That is until my granddaughter asked to go down the slide. The day before she had attempted it but her parents took her off the ladder. Apparently since they were not going to stand with her every moment she wasn’t allowed to climb. Me? I had time and stood behind her ready to intercept any fall. She navigated the climbing well until she reached the top where the last ladder rung was only a couple inches from the bottom of the decking.
“Hold me.” She said. Gently I held her sides enough to stabilize her. In that confidence she climbed the final portion and ran to the slide. I had just enough time to get to the foot of the slide before she commenced her downward journey. I needn’t worry about her speed. The pink boots she insisted on wearing (a gift from a church family that afternoon) dragged against the metal slide.
Once on the ground she said, “Do it ‘gain.” And so we did. Time and time and time and time again. This must have been an exciting adventure for her as it kept her attention much longer than I expected. Her brother kept belly swinging and only once joined us on the slide.
I smiled at those times, as her proficiency at climbing increased, when she didn’t ask me to hold her. Maybe she forgot as her confidence grew. Maybe she trusted me to be there. Maybe she realized she didn’t need the reassurance of my touch.
With each “Do it ‘gain” my joy at being with her and seeing her develop grew. I delighted in her growing skills.
If this is how I feel about my granddaughter, how does God feel about me? Climbing a ladder for me is a simple thing; for my granddaughter it was a momentous accomplishment. I delight in her. How much more must God delight in me?
At that question I pause. What does it mean for God to delight in me? Often I associate God with demands and judgment – not with joy and delight. I suspect this is my heritage of an intellectual theology. When I elevate the primacy of my mind, I focus on tasks and accomplishments. “Knowing” has become about the accumulation of facts and cultivating reasoning skills.
Yet, Biblically, knowing is more about relationship. Knowing God is not the accumulation of facts but the cultivation of relationship. Facts cannot delight in me. A loving Father can.
As I continue on this journey from my head to my heart, the similarity between my experience on the playground parallels my cultivation of spiritual practices (often called “disciplines”). When I discover joy in a practice and repeat it, not only do I develop proficiency I also experience the delight of God.
God who does not demand I develop any of these practices but stands close to me as I do, delights in my joy at drawing close to Him. So, I think I’ll …
… Do it ‘gain!