Wasn’t it a beautiful day today? I just enjoyed the spring-like weather in the middle of February (although I do secretly hope we get some snow!). It lifted my spirits and got us out of the house as we headed over to the park. Apparently, every single other person in town had the exact same idea we did! There were kids everywhere! Of course, I have to keep close by Ephraim at only 16 months old, but I try to give Hannah a little freedom to run by herself. She knows the boundary line and not to go off with anyone else – including another kid. Or so she tells me.
But today was the first day that she had an opportunity to disobey me. Apparently, there was another little girl named Hannah playing on the playground, and her mom was yelling for her. My daughter heard her name; but instead of running to that lady, she came running over to me to tell me that someone was yelling at her to come to them. I was so proud of her, and I told her so! But from that point on, she did not want to be far from my side and kept me constantly in her sight. In her eyes, she had come close to danger, and she wanted to make sure that her mom was nearby.
I think that a lot of us are like Hannah. We take the liberty that we have in Christ, and we run with freedom farther and farther away from our God. But when we get into trouble or go through some sort of trial, we suddenly run back to our “Safety Net.” And we stay close to God for awhile, not taking our eyes off of Him – as long as the danger is fresh in our mind. But before we know it, we are running off on our own again, forgetting that God wants to walk beside us, wants to slide down the slide of life with us, wants to lift us up with hope like the swings lift us into the sky.
And then there is Ephraim. He is perfectly content to let me hold his hand, push him on the swings, slide down the slide with him. He may venture a few steps away from me but then immediately turns back, unsure of himself, and unwilling to be too far away from the person he trusts. He is just a baby, but he knows that he is safe with Mommy around.
I think Ephraim is like a new Christian – someone who wants to take their liberty in Christ but is still unsure and so clings tightly to the hand of the One they know they can trust. I think in some ways, I envy the baby Christian. They are still excited to learn about God, still clinging to His promises, still basking in His love. It becomes harder the longer we’re Christians to remember that excitement of first meeting our Savior!
But we all have to grow, and God wants us to enjoy the freedom we have to love Him.
I can’t help but think of the story of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32. Here are two sons – one who longs to take his fortune and set out on his own and another who would never dream of leaving his home and his father but resents the freedom his other brother experiences.
It takes losing all that he has and having to eat with the pigs for the prodigal son to realize that he had the best life when he clung to his father.
“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father” (v. 17-20).
But the other son wasn’t doing great either. He was in captivity because he felt resentment that he had stayed behind and had never received the “fattened calf.” He didn’t realize that he always had the good things that his father had to offer him. Ephraim is like that, too, sometimes. He sees all the fun things that Hannah gets to do when she lets go of my hand; but he doesn’t realize that he is holding onto the person with the snacks, the person who will protect him, the person who will be his playmate. No one else wants to play with the baby but Mommy!
“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours” – (v. 31)
God wants us to grow and to be confident in our relationship with Him. But He doesn’t want us to just come running to Him when we start getting into trouble – like the prodigal son. And He doesn’t want us to cling to Him because we are afraid to grow and step out in faith – like the other brother. He wants us to delight in the freedom we have in Him while never losing sight of the One who loves despite our attempts to run away.
“But now, this is what the LORD says– He who created you, O Jacob, He who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine” – Isaiah 43:1