The Canopy of Grace

Oh how delightful it is to just stop for a moment and reflect on the delicious days of summers-gone-by, when school books were finally turned in, shoes moved to storage; alarm clocks abandoned. Now it was time to go barefoot and wiggle small toes in warm sand and roam Eden with 'nary a worry in the world. The air was heavenly with the scent of lilacs and honeysuckle. We sucked in the afternoon ozone from visiting thunderstorms, played hide-and-seek with friends, caught fire-flies in the late evenings, dangled a struggling worm over an elusive perch, captured polywogs to watch their legs emerge, and laid out on a blanket at midnight to see the stars fall...I salivate just thinking of those times.

"There is a garden in every childhood, an enchanted place where colors are brighter, the air softer, and the morning more fragrant than ever again." ---Elizabeth Lawrence

"When you finally go back to your old hometown, you find that it wasn't the old home you missed but your childhood." ---Sam Ewing

In Africa, children play with dung beetles among the bodies of the starving, or take the bricks of bombed-out buildings to make a castle. I recall that before the curtain fell, "Play-like" was a phrase that dominated our childhood vocabulary. We were aware that mothers cried when war telegrams arrived, for outside a war raged-- a sound of agony and grief filled hearts everywhere. Sugar, tires, and gasoline were all rationed, and there were seldom any sweets to eat--that there were few smiles on the faces of adults. We did not dismiss facts, but despite it all, almost instantly we could walk out the door, leave the fretting to adults and transport ourselves back to "Eden" to vanish away from it all.

A few days ago my granddaughter Ashley proudly brought me a bouquet of wildflowers she had picked out of my wilderness. They were dandelions. To her, they were beautiful--and though I was thinking of the many struggles I had in trying to eradicate those particular weeds from my lawn and garden, I graciously accepted them from her small hands and thanked her for her thoughtfulness. But I later wondered just when it was in my own thoughts that dandelions stopped being flowers and became weeds. I am certain it was about the same time I "grew up". As someone has said:

                   "When childhood dies, its corpses are called adults."

Ashley's older brother Robert is at an in-between stage. Lanky and thin, he has the traces of a mustache showing and a deeper voice; and he tries desperately to make me laugh at his mischievous antics and insists on running through the house. A child is becoming a man...

The Apostle Paul had a description of "maturity" that I once failed to understand:
"When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I
thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish
things." (1Co 13:11)

How I wanted to pound that into Robert!

Yet Jesus had taught that unless we became as a little child, we could not enter into His kingdom. It seems the two scriptures are at odds with one another, and yet the problem is how we define "maturity". Actually, the two statements are a paradox. We are to put away the adolescent disobedience and foolishness Paul is describing, but hold onto the simple trust and obedience that characterized our infancy that allowed us those joyful moments of innocence when dandelions were once considered beautiful flowers.

We make attempts to bring it back what we lost by taking vacations and weekend jaunts, but they only provide us a temporary escape--for we all realize that the curtain went down on those days long ago when we vanished into a world of "reality" and something inside us seemed to vanish. It was called"maturing", but the Bible describes it as Adam's sin-nature beginning to sprout in the soil of childhood innocence, soon overtaking that garden of Eden in each of us and necessitating our becoming "born again" through the Lord to ever regain it.

Paul also said, "I have learned in whatsoever state I am in, therewith to be content" Yesterday I had my regular mammogram, and in answering the questions of the nurse, she was so surprised to find that I was now on cancer number 4. "But you look so good!" she responded. "It is only because of the grace of God and prayer that I live," I told her. But I also knew that fear and doubt always fought furiously to negate hope and faith. It was an unrelenting battle...always. "Maturity" might label me "in denial", yet I had learned that I could always run out the back door into the canopy of His Grace and Eden was always there. Death was not a fear-factor.

True maturity, then, would be in re-learning to trust God as an adult the same way we trusted our parents as a child and returning to Eden--- even in dangerous and frightful times, to sit under that canopy of Grace that is God's love -gift to you and me. It is then that dandelions become flowers for a vase and diseases become banners to be hoisted in God's victory parade.

It is all matter of learning what NOT to "put away".

(c) 2006