“Would you please stay three forever?”
I asked my daughter this question every day for weeks before her last birthday. She is, after all, my third child. My only girl. My baby. And right or wrong, she has me wrapped hopelessly and completely around her little finger.
So when the big day actually came, and my daughter finally turned four, I asked a new question, and expected the answer she gave every day for months. “Would you please stay four forever?” But instead of the swift and decisive, “No!” usually followed with something about pre-k and tee ball, which quickly told me she had places to go and people to see and staying put was not a part of the plan, this day was different. My daughter surprised me another answer, filled with amazing clarity and profound significance.
“Okay daddy, I’ll stay four…until God turns me five.”
Wow. Isn’t it funny how truth--the kind that cuts you to the core--often comes from the mouths of children? Almost intuitively she knows, or at least senses on some deep level, that it isn’t God’s plan for us to stay right where we are. Our inclination is to hold on to the blessings in life, just in case. We strive in so many ways to keep things just the way they are, and yet God wants us to step into tomorrow. Like it or not, tomorrow will be thrust upon us whether we move or not. Sunrise follows sunset, just the way God planned it. We are called on to move, not just react.
The parable of the talents is a story from Holy Scripture that reminds me of the human desire to hold on and hoard life (Matthew 25: 14-30). A man going on a journey entrusts his property to three of his servants. Two of them take what he gives them and use it to make more. One fears the future and takes what the man gives to him and buries it in the ground. In that place, the treasure stays, and doesn’t lose value but doesn’t grow either. Ultimately, the man takes away what he gives to this servant. He fails to move into tomorrow with the confidence to use what has already been given to him.
I heard a story about a woman who visited a marketplace in Mexico. She ran across a man with beautiful parrots for sale. She noticed that the birds were not restrained in any way, and yet they stayed on their perches. When she asked why they didn’t fly away, the man explained how he trains the birds to identify their perches with safety and security. Instead of leaving, they grip their perch as if they have forgotten how to fly. She asked if it was possible to un-teach that behavior. He told her he could easily show them how to release their grip. They could then fly as freely as they wished.
We are like those birds in so many ways. We cling to what we know and what makes us comfortable. Afraid to lose what we have, we never venture out. We want to take time and space and freeze it all. Stay four forever. Or thirty. Or eighty. Please stay right here and keep things just the way they are. On our perches life may feel safe, but remember God ultimately made us to fly and sunrise follows sunset just the way God planned it.
What are you holding on to today? Are you afraid that time will march on and you won’t be able to keep up, or even worse, that the people you love won’t wait?
When it’s easier to stay motionless, remember the wind of grace. It blows beneath our wings with the power of resurrection and new life. God’s plan is for us to fly. And though mustering the courage to change or even move is often harder than the change itself, remember that God calls and waits in the future, but carried you the entire way there.
“Would you please stay four forever?” On second thought, I can’t wait to see the mighty ways in which God will use my daughter. As long as she, and we, are willing, God has so much more planned for our tomorrow than we can possibly hold on to today.