As I pondered the parables of faith that children have been for me, two images immediately came to mind. The first parable was embodied by my grandson, who is three, as we spent a day at an amusement park. I watched in amazement as he would ride the same ride over and over again, each time an infectious joy radiating from his face, and a quickness to his step as he ran excitedly through the exit at the rides conclusion just to get back in line for the very same ride. In fact, in some marvelous way his delight and joy seemed to be increased, not diminished by the repetition.
He was able to fully experience the same ride over and over again “for the first time” with the thrill and excitement that comes from not knowing exactly what will happen – each time there was mystery that birthed wonder, delight and joy. As I watched him, I began to reflect on the repetitious elements of my faith, the Lord’s Prayer, the Creeds, the reading of God’s Word, the celebration of the Lord’s Supper—wondering why is it that I am unable to enter into these mysteriously dynamic practices, each oozing of untold possibilities, with the same excitement that my grandson displayed. Why do I not find myself inexplicably drawn to these practices again and again “for the first time” thrilled with the chance to do it again and open to what will happen this time—fully present to this familiar yet new ride of the Spirit?
The second parable that came to me occurred more than 30 years ago as I “swam” with my two-year old daughter—who was not much of a swimmer nor too fond of the water. This living parable has become for me a sacred icon, a window into the person of God, the mystery of faith. Our times in the pool consisted of her holding on to me for dear life, arms tightly coiled around my neck, her little body tense with fear while I had my left arm around her back, my right hand situated under butt supporting her. However, in her mind her safety was dependent on her ability to hang on.
Over time she learned to trust in my ability to hold on to her. As her trust grew so did her enjoyment of the water. Letting go of her death grip on my neck she now had a free hand and started to splash, her body relaxing, the furrow of worry melting from her brow, a smile enveloping her face, her silence of uncertainty replaced with joyous laughter. She could now enjoy the pool, freed from fear and able to experience joy. As I witnessed her transformation in that pool a passage came to mind from the Book of Isaiah. It reads; Do not fear, for I am with you. Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; surely I will help you. Surely I will uphold you with my mighty right hand.
What hinders/robs you of the ability to experience wonder, joy and delight in your relationship with God and/or the practice that are part of your adventure of faith? Share this with God.
In what areas of your life are you currently finding it difficult to trust God, to let go of your fear? Why? Share all this with God. What might help you to “let go” of your fear so that you might experience greater freedom in life?
Larry Warner is founder and president of b, a spiritual formation ministry working with pastors, missionaries, seminarians, and churches; he is a retreat leader and spiritual director; he teaches at a number of seminaries and is a consultant for churches. He is author of Journey with Jesus: Discovering the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius. He has been married for thirty-five years and has four children and three grandchildren.