A few months ago, I spent the day with my 16-month-old granddaughter. I wanted to take her to the park but we needed to stay home to wait for repairmen to come. It was a good thing she wasn’t aware I was planning on taking her to the park because the repairmen took longer than expected. My granddaughter loves to swing and to know it might not happen would have been too much.
My daughter called to let us know she was going to be later getting home than we expected, so I decided to grab a couple of sandwiches at the local deli for dinner and head to the park. I bundled my granddaughter up and we started off with her riding in the stroller. We picked up our sandwiches and continued to walk to the park, only a couple of blocks from home.
There wasn't a picnic table but a park bench. I sat her on my lap and she became vocal about being at the park. She pointed to the swings and it was obvious she wanted to play. I knew she was hungry and I decided that eating first was best. She passively gave in to my idea. She held her hands off to the side and leaned her body forward to take bites from the sandwich I held. This was certainly different from her normal mode of eating which tends to create quite a mess. Since she was hungry, she silently kept eating this way without taking her eyes off the swings.
After she had eaten most of her sandwich and I had eaten mine, I bundled up the leftovers and placed them in the stroller. I stood up while holding her and she became completely undone. Huge tears streamed down her face. She thought I was taking her from the park without having a chance to play on the swings. I tried to comfort her and to explain that she could swing but she could not make the connection. She wasn’t able to communicate what she wanted with words and she wasn’t able to understand my assurance.
What kind of a person would I be to only tease her with such a hopeful view? How could she think I would do such a horrible thing?
I carried my granddaughter in my arms while pushing the stroller closer to the swings. As we got closer, her expression began to change. Tears continued to roll down her cheeks. The beginning of hope came across her face. Her desire to swing might just become a possibility. She looked at me with this growing hope as we continued to get closer. I could tell she was almost afraid to fully hope in her desire, but the growth of that blossoming hope was taking root. As I placed her in the beloved swing, her hope and desire were full realized and she became excited.
As I was thinking about this time with my granddaughter and the impression it made on my heart, I thought of my relationship with God. I have sensed God leading me into new things, a new way of thinking and a new life. It has felt much like being in front of the swing as I wished to live fully into who God had created me to be, to do this work I feel called to. Who am I to think God would only tease me with this hope I deeply feel and then not allow me to play, to swing to my heart’s delight.
As I wondered, I realized much of my fear was being uncertain if it was safe to hope in the possibilities. I think we all have these questions.
Will I trust God to grant the desires in my heart which have been awoken within me? Is God really trustworthy?
My desire is to trust and I am doing so with a growing yet, shaky confidence. I will step into where I see God leading. I’m pretty sure that I will get some of this right and some of this wrong - but I desire to trust God to love me regardless.
How about you? What playground of hope is God showing you? Do you think it might be a true invitation or just a trick?
The experiences of life seem to bump up against how and where we expect God to work. It may feel like something is wrong with us that we need to fix. This is an unsettling place. It isn’t necessarily something to fix, but rather an invitation to allow God to meet you in the questions. Here, God can show you a bigger understanding of who God is.
Sometimes, our expectations of God are shaped by the people around us from childhood, the culture we live in, and our experiences. Holding these incomplete understandings to God and allowing God to reshape them is a place of healing. God already knows and is waiting to touch the lies, doubts, and fears we hold. Is your desire to trust?
As we trust God to be God, we are invited to swing! There is a risk in swinging freely, but God, our Creator, walks alongside us. The thing I have come to realize is that the gift isn’t the ability or freedom to swing but the continued awareness and surrender to our own belovedness. Allowing my granddaughter to swing was a gift, for sure, but my desire is for her to deeply know my continual unconditional love for her and my desire to say yes. She is my dearly and completely loved granddaughter, regardless of anything. Just like her, we are dearly and completely loved by God, regardless of anything. We are invited to trust in God’s desire to say yes.
Have you ever noticed that when you take a walk with children, your hands start filling up without your awareness? As I raised my daughters, it seemed this flow of items from their hands to mine continually happened.
One morning while I sat quietly with God, I noticed tears were especially close to the surface. With this noticing, I became aware I held many things. Some of what I held was due to the busyness of life, with the growing demands on my time. Some of it was relational issues and struggles. Some of the weight was due to questions regarding the future: financial and vocational. What was the way forward for me? Was I being faithful and responsible with my decisions which impacted my financial security and provision?
Noticing the concerns I held seemed to be an important awareness. Not judging myself for holding them was equally important. That is part of the gift of living a life with a God who intimately loves us regardless.
Living life with that realization allows the space to bring the questions one holds to this loving God to discover God's view. This place of non-judgment allows the vulnerability with oneself and with God to see the fears, doubts, and lies you may be holding. This is the gift of space I allowed myself.
Some of what I held was completely beyond my control and I needed to set it aside. The real issue was not about the concerns I held; but what was behind the fears that kept me from letting go and walking forward in freedom. In some of the issues, I only needed to know I held them and to let all of it be in God’s hands while allowing myself to step into what I can do to live in today with what I know today.
One of my favorite places to go when I struggle with making sense of my world is a labyrinth. It offers a quiet and physical space to discover what I am holding onto and my way forward. It offers an intentional physical representation of our inner journey. One walks the path in a thoughtful and prayerful pace. On the way in, one is encouraged to allow God to show you the invitation to release whatever you might be holding. During the walk, it seems as if you are moving closer to the middle, your destination. Though you soon discover you become even further away as the path leads you to the outside edge once again. Through the process, it is important to notice without judgment your own heart, feelings, and thoughts throughout the journey.
As one enters the middle area the question to ask is what God has to say about what you have noticed on the way in. You are encouraged to stay in the middle as long as you feel you need. On the way out you can pray through what you can take out into the world, your life, from this time together with God. The labyrinth can be a great place to experience an inner awareness with regard to your relationship with God, yourself, and the world.
From my own process, I was reminded of an earlier conversation with regard to Exodus. The Israelites were instructed to follow the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night (Ex. 13:21). They followed a step by step journey without knowing where they would end up, yet hoping for the Promised Land. Along their way, God took care of their physical needs with a daily provision of manna and quail.
As I remembered the Israelites, I noticed the parallel between their journey and my walk through the labyrinth and my own personal journey. I resonated with the daily provision and the step by step journey without a clear resolution or goal. I am only invited to do the next true step. That is it, just the next true step. I can remember what I have previously sensed to be God’s lead. This step by step journey I am now taking lines well with what I have understood as the way forward. I may be wrong or I may be right. Regardless, I am only taking the next true step. And that is all I/we are invited to do. As you enter this new year, what do you notice you are holding?
Hello, I'm Kathi Gatlin. Thanks for stopping by!