The First Bruise
My daughter, who is a year old, has a little game she likes to play. She runs at top speed (well, as fast as her stubby little legs will take her) across the living room floor, eventually diving onto a little pile of pillows and blankets. If you'll chase her, it's even better, but she'll do it no matter what. She just loves to run, dive, and laugh. It's actually pretty hilarious to watch, and I'll chase her all day (as fast as my stubby little legs will take me), just to watch her do it. Well, today I got a text from my wife saying that our little girl's favorite game had gone a little awry. Apparently she ran toward the soft, safe pile as usual, but this time she miscalculated the dive a little bit. This time she hit the corner of the couch… face-first. Ouch.
When I arrived home a couple hours later, I saw my little daredevil sitting on the couch, tears mostly dried, but with a nice little bruise forming on her cheek. Her first bruise. And when I looked at it, the first thing that struck me wasn't just the thought that my kid was in some pain, or that she had quite a little shiner forming. No, the first thought I had was wow, this is going to change her. And before you start thinking that I'm worried that my daughter's pageant future is at risk, let me assure you that's not what I was thinking. It was her passion, her fearlessness - those are the things I was worried about. That's what's at risk once the bruises begin. That's what struck me after the couch struck her.
Now, at the age of 40, I've seen a lot of bruises, cuts, scrapes, sprains and fractures in my lifetime - and I know she's got a lifetime of similar nicks ahead of her. I can't say that I remember my first one, but I do know this - at the age of 40, I've learned enough to know that getting hurt sucks. Stepping in a hole and twisting an ankle, reaching into a duffel bag and forgetting my razor is in there, lifting up too quickly from the trunk of the car and slamming my head into the lid…if you give me the choice, trust me, I'll live out the rest of my days without any of those things happening again. So what do I do now? I move a little slower. I check for holes in the ground, look before I reach, avoid situations that seem unnecessarily risky. I'm much more cautious at 40 than I was at 30, and 30 was not as wild and brave as 20. What was I like at the age of one?
The Bible has some interesting things to say around this process. On one hand we read in 1 Corinthians 13, "when I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known." Sounds like getting older and wiser is a good thing, right? Fewer bruises, maybe? More efficient living? But wait, when I turn back to Matthew 18, I read Jesus saying, “truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." So… which is it?
Well, like most things in the Bible that seem to be at odds, I think the answer is "both." You know, there's a reason you don't see a whole lot of adults sprinting through their houses and diving across the living room floor. Somebody could get hurt, furniture gets broken, it's just risky. We gain, and our community gains, from the strides we make in wisdom and in understanding. But those changes must come with balance - just because we begin to calculate and minimize risk, we should not forget how to risk, or what to risk. There is an element of risk when we place our faith in Someone we cannot see with human eyes. Children are so ready to take that kind of risk, and Jesus applauds it in Matthew 18. But our hearts sustain bruises along the way, and I am just as prone to protect my spirit as my ankles. The path of a wise, adult disciple of Christ is a great balance between the value of wisdom and the glory of abandon. The co-existence of the two is tricky enough that I believe it can only be maintained with divine help, lest we stray to far toward one extreme.
I hope my daughter runs across the living room again tomorrow. I want to hear that laugh again. I want her to grow up loving passionately, living loudly, and believing wholeheartedly. Will she measure her dives a little bit more closely? Well, yeah - and I hope she does learn that kind of wisdom. As cute as she is with her new little battle scar, I love seeing her face without a bruise.