Monday, January 14, 2013

like little children

Running to Dean on a beach in Scotland
There is a game that my mother-in-law and my two-year-old nephew play.  While she stands in the kitchen, my nephew walks to the far end of the hallway.  He backs up against the wall, waits to see her open arms and hear the word, "Come," and then he runs with all his might down the hall and into her arms.  General merriment and laughter ensue.  When we visited our families over Christmastime, my nephew demonstrated this game with grandma.  And then he did it with grandpa.  And in no time at all he was doing it with me, too.  In fact, he would run to just about any adult that opened their arms and uttered the trigger word, "Come."  Except for Dean.  For some reason, he was afraid of Uncle Dean. 

Now I know and love this man called Dean and admittedly, he is big and boisterous and a bit scary-looking.  But once you get to know him, you discover that he is a very kind and gentle man.  I don't really know why my nephew was uncertain about running to Dean.  I guess it just didn't seem like a good idea to him.  Perhaps it was the fact that we hadn't seen him since last Christmas and Dean was a bit of a stranger.  But that didn't seem to stop the boy from crashing full force into me (whom he also hadn't seen for a year) when I bid him come.  Even after Dean had spent several days hanging out with the whole family, the young boy still turned away when Dean opened his arms.  Dean really tried to win him over.  He even got down on his knees, hoping that his size, his height, and his big, booming voice and laugh would be less intimidating.  That didn't work, either.

A few nights later we were playing the game again.  My nephew ran into grandma's arms and then into my arms, over and over.   Then Dean took my place and my nephew refused to run.  It was a no go.  No amount of reassurance could convince him that it was okay.  Dean was kneeling on the floor at the end of the hall.  My nephew was in the kitchen and we were all around the child, trying to convince him to run to Dean.  He just turned his face away, so I looked at Dean's inviting arms and decided that if my nephew wasn't going to go, I would!  So I ran to Dean!  I landed awkwardly in his arms, I giggled with delight, everyone laughed, and we held each other for a few seconds.  Then I extricated myself from Dean's arms and the next thing I saw was my nephew catapulting himself into Dean's arms as well.  Just like I had done a minute ago.  And then he couldn't be stopped.  He loved running to Dean!

Sometimes we think that talking is how we convince people of something or reassure them that it's going to be okay.  We think that giving someone a book to read on a subject will change their minds or convince them of some great truth.  We believe that reasoning with someone and explaining things to them is an effective path to transformation.  These methods may very well be part of someone's faith journey, but no one can really explain a relationship with God.  We can only show it.  We can only run to him over and over again while the doubters and the fearful ones watch, and hope that they see someone they would like to run to as well. 

Matte from Montreal