Have you ever been a child? The one who grows up is a child. To grow up can be tough. There are so many things to be learnt, and they are not learnt except through trial and failure. Already from you leave your mothers womb through a no return exit and begin your own, independent life in a wicked world, you start learning. Soon you take your first step, followed by your first fall. But it doesn’t intimidate your curious and naturally open attitude towards learning. You try again, and soon fail over again. Mummy has to help you for the first few steps, as she holds your hands over and over again, leading your clumsy steps as you smile out your feet in front of you; foot by foot. And as you keep falling, you somehow perceive knowledge about what you are doing wrong and how you can do it right. Bit for bit, you acquire skill by skill. Soon you can walk all on your own, without mummy helping. Have you ever been there? You have for sure.
As for me, God keeps surprising me by showing me how much I am still there. How much I am still that small boy who acts against a better understanding, crawling around on the floor when I know how to walk. The stubborn kid who just has to reach out for the candle flame even though dad has been warning against it time and time again. But sure you do it — and of course daddy was right; it hurts a lot! Your finger is burnt and black with carbon. Why did you do it? There is no good reason for it; you just had to touch that exiting, eye-catching flame. That is how it has felt for me lately. I just had to reach out for the amazing flame placed on the table in front of me. In the horizon of my ignorance, I clearly heard my dad’s calm warnings as I steadily reached out my finger to touch.
Don’t do it. Don’t touch the flame. But I did. Sure I did. And sure it hurt. “Why did you do it?” My dad’s question was justified in every sense of the word. He had all rights to be angry with me, knowing that I had been acting against far better understanding. How many times hadn’t I been warned? Still I did it. The truth is that I even did it over again. And then a third time. It took more than one burnt finger to teach this stubborn little kid a lesson. Some kids grow up the hard way, and “God disciplines every son he loves, and chastises every son he accepts. ” Indeed so; he doesn’t give up on me. Rather he punishes and rebukes me, all in love, until I understand to discern good from evil and until I am willing to listen. When I have learnt and accepted the lesson, he takes me to his lap and comforts me, as he blows the pains away from my hurt finger.
It is not always easy, though, when God is doing his all necessary surgery on my soul. In all this stubbornness of mine, he has shown me nasty things about myself. Things I couldn’t dream of doing, but still did. Why, God? Why didn’t you stop me from touching that flame and burn myself — a big issue for an inexperienced child? Or why didn’t you build a big fence around your garden, so that I wouldn’t be so tempted to sneak into the orchard for apple scrumping with the next door girl? Or why do you permit my constantly being exposed to things that brings about the worst in me? Why, daddy?
My dad was moving about in the orchard at the breezy time of the day. From the window he had seen me looking at the tasty apples as I asked myself the question of old: Is it really true that God said, ‘You must not eat from any tree of the orchard’?
“Where are you?” his voice calling me out of the bushes where I was hiding the shame of my nakedness –pockets full of apples– away from him. There was nothing to give as an answer when he questioned me, and asked me to inform him. Like Job, my imprudence was laid vastly open for all my enemies to behold and mock. With pockets full of guilt I started to cry and ask his forgiveness. I understood how all-dependent I was on his mercy. And that was exactly the recognition my dad wanted to cause in his proud-hearted child. You see; that is why my dad permits such things to happen. Bringing the darkness of my life into the light, he removes it. The process of surgery is sometimes extremely painful and hard for my body to take. But letting him remove the cancer is necessary for his life to be sustained in me.
His calming spirit is floating out through his nostrils and down over me as I take my rest on his comforting lap. I realize what these big time failures of mine have brought about in my life. They have caused me to not only realize how ultimately dependent I am on his mercy, but also to experience that he actually does give mercy! Like any good father he grants mercy and comfort to a repenting son — even a prodigal one.
To me this is a new experience of old. And it brings about a real, heart rooted desire of my inner life and soul to never ever go scrumping with the neighbor girl again.
To never reach for the candle flames again.