The girl was just 14 months old. Her aunt was carrying her from the one-bedroom apartment in the basement of the beach house across the sand to the ocean. She squirmed, wanting to get down and walk. So her aunt put her down on the sand. Her bare feet sank as the sand squished between her toes. She started to wobble back and forth, afraid to lift a foot.
So she plopped her diaper-padded bottom down and put her hands in the sand. It oozed between her little fingers, and her big eyes grew even bigger as she watched the sand in wonder. She giggled as she kept swatting her hands down on the sand.
Then the little girl tried to stand up and walk, but she kept falling—trying—falling. Soon she was slowly walking ... running ... stumbling ... standing ... and running again. And all the time she was laughing, crying, laughing.
Her aunt looked back, annoyed because her niece wasn’t keeping up on the way to a “good” spot near the water. Annoyed, until she realized that the girl was experiencing sand for the first time. Wow! She watched with delight now as her niece touched and, yes, even tasted the sand. She realized she’d completely forgotten her first celebration with sand. So she sat down next to the little girl, picked up some sand and let it run through her fingers too.
I was that aunt, back in June 1983. And the niece was Jennifer, my brother’s first child. I was in such a rush to get her to the ocean that I’d forgotten about the walk we needed to take to get there—and the newness of it for her. Isn’t that exactly how many of us live our faith journey? Sometimes we focus on the destination instead of the walk. Other times we forget what we’ve experienced on our path for so many years.
Children can teach us so much about our faith journey. It’s not about getting to the ocean ... or to any other there. It’s about questioning, touching, smelling, tasting, laughing, falling, crying, getting up again—or just sitting where you are and playing. It’s about walking with eyes wide in wonderment.
It’s about opening our hearts and minds to the experiences of God and Christ in our lives every day. It’s about trusting we will be safe, even when the ground isn’t firm and we are vulnerable, and knowing that Jesus loves us.
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