My son asked if he could take one of the dogs for a walk on a recent Saturday afternoon. I said yes if he took Max, but no to Scout. Scout is very strong and an elopement risk. One look at freedom and he is gone for the hills. Max on the other hand is very docile and polite on a lead.
Caleb had not been on a solo walk with a dog before, and when I thought about it, he had not been on a solo walk without a dog before either. He and his sisters have a roughly defined area within sight of the front of the house where they are allowed to play on our quiet street. We are on an interior corner, not quite a cul-de-sac, so they have a pretty good range. But he is almost 9 and ready for a little more freedom in the neighborhood. “You may take Max around the block. Then stop by the house and tell me if you are going to put him back in the yard or take him out for another lap around the block.” He left, giddy with a new found freedom.
After ten or fifteen minutes, he popped his head back in and said he was back and would like to do another lap. I told him yes, tell me when you are back, and off he went.
Fifteen minutes passed. No Caleb.Twenty minutes. No Caleb.At twenty-five minutes, I got in the van to make a trip around the block. I was not really worried. I figured that he had gotten hot and tired and had sat down with Max under a tree, or perhaps that he had turned the wrong way and had gotten disoriented in our neighborhood where all the houses look alike.
I made a slow loop around the block. No Caleb.I stopped by the house where my husband said: No Caleb.Worry growing a bit, I turned into the neighborhood along his likely path. I made a slow search. No Caleb. The reasonable part of me was starting to lose the battle with the panicky part of me. I pulled back up to the house where my husband waved me back in- Caleb was home safe.
It turns out he had decided to walk to the park and had gotten turned around and disoriented. I stifled my urge to simultaneously hug him and kill him. Instead, I kept calm and asked him “Caleb, what happened?”
He explained that he had decided to try to find the park near our home. He had gotten turned around and didn’t know his way to the park or back home. “I was lost,” he admitted. “But I looked around and finally saw that old tree that we pass on the way home from school, so I followed that path home.”
I reminded him that I had limited him to walking around the block and asked him why he thought I had limited his walk …. did he think I was I trying to ruin his fun? He thought about it and said “You didn’t want me to get lost.” Bingo. Close boundaries first, then expanded as you display responsibility, son.
Then I asked him how he felt when he realized he was lost. For the first time, the lower lip quavered a bit. “Well, I wasn’t sure what to do, so I stopped and prayed, then started looking for something familiar. That’s when I saw the dead tree we pass on the way home.”
“That was really smart, son. And Caleb,” I said, “where was mom when you got back home?”
More lip quavering, ever so slight. “Out trying to find me.”
“That’s right, son. I will always be looking for you when you need me to. That’s my job as your parent.”
One of the amazing things about being a parent is the perspective that it gives me on God’s relationship with me. I love my children and work hard to be a good parent. I don’t always do a good job. God on the other hand is the perfect parent to me.
“Only go around the block.”–God gives us boundaries for a reason. He tells us “no” for a reason. It is not to deprive us from fun or good things, but rather to keep us safe, and to keep us close to Him. To keep us from getting lost. But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children- with those who keep His covenant and remember to obey his precepts. Ps 103:17-18
“Check in with me after you do a lap.”–The best time to check in with God is all the time. Not just when you find yourself in need of help. Don’t wait until you have gotten yourself lost. Instead, check in with God all the time. Remain in Him. Remain in me, as I remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. Jn 15:4
“I wasn’t sure what to do, so I stopped and prayed, then looked for something familiar.”–This is not just a good plan for when you get lost when out for a walk with the dog; this is good advice for life. Lost your way? Not sure where to turn or what to trust? Call on God. And turn to what you know to be true; trust in what you know you can trust. Answer me when I call to you, my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; have mercy on me and hear my prayer. Ps 4:1
“I will always be looking for you when you need me to. That’s my job as a parent.” I cannot physically be with my children at all times. But as a parent, I can make a promise to my child that I will always come for them, I will always look for them, I will always do my best to protect them, even when they feel isolated from me. I cannot fulfill this promise perfectly- I am human. God the perfect parent does fulfill this perfectly. “Be strong and corageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deut 31:6
As you wander this world you will doubtless spend some time “lost”. Call out to your Father. He is waiting to lead you home.