"A truly rich man is one whose children run into his arms when his hands are empty."
One day with our kids, my wife and I found ourselves at a local park in our small town. Like we do so many times since we've had children, I sat on the park bench surrounded by swings, see saws, and monkey bars. It 's the kind of park that makes a grown man wish he was a kid again. Autumn, who's seven, always takes off for the big playground equipment. Her brother, who's two, followed close behind his sister. Both of them took off like a shot for the slide.
In my thoughts, I drifted back to when my daughter was smaller and first started coming here before Connor was born. That day she started off on the smallest slide. There was two different size slides at the park.
Watching her nervously, my wife remarked,"Why don't you go down with her?"
But I wanted to wait and watch. "Let's wait and see what happens,"I said. So we relaxed on that bench and watched. She climbed halfway up the ladder when she turned and looked back at me. I looked away. She pondered her options for a moment, then carefully backed down one step at a time.
"Honey, you ought to go help her out,"my wife said.
"Not yet," I replied, hoping the twinkle in my eye would reassure her that I wasn't just being careless.
She spent a few minutes at the bottom of the slide watching other kids climb up, whiz down, and run around to do it again. Finally her little mind was made up. She could do it. She climbed up...and slid down. Three times, in fact, with a big smile each time.
Then we watched her turn and head to the big one. The slide that seemed like a 100 stories to her. Now Gina was getting anxious. "Lance, I don't think she should do that by herself. Do you?"
"No," I replied as calmly as possible. "But I don't think she will. Let's see what she does."
When Autumn reached the bottom of the giant slide, she turned and called out,"Daddy!" But I glanced away again, pretending I couldn't hear her.
She peered up the ladder. In her young imagination, it must have reached to the clouds. She watched a teenage girl of about 13 go hurtling down the slide. Then, against all odds, she decided to try. Step-by-step, hand over hand, she inched up the ladder. She hadn't reached a third of the way when she froze. By this time, the teenager was coming up behind her and yelled at her to get going. But Autumn couldn't. She couldn't go up or down. She had reached the point of certain failure.
I rushed over. "Are you okay, sweetie?" I asked from the bottom of the ladder.
She looked down at me, shaken but clinging to that ladder with steely determination. And I could tell she had a question ready.
"Dad, will you come down the slide with me?" she asked. The teenager was losing patience, but I wasn't about to let the moment go.
"Why, sweetheart?" I asked, peering up into her little face.
"I can't do it without you, Dad," she said, trembling. "It's too big for me!"
I stretched as high as I could to reach her and lifted her into my arms. Then we climbed that long ladder up to the clouds together. At the top, I put my little girl between my legs and wrapped my arms around her. Then we went zipping down the slide together, laughing all the way.
Now I watch my son's big sister guide his hand. Encouraging him on the small slide to attempt it. Nervously he trusts her. Building his courage. He whizzes down, and they laugh uncontrollably together. But when he reaches that point of failure, I'll be there to step in when he needs me.
That is how our Heavenly Father's hand is. "Father, please help me I can't do this alone! It's just too big!" He swoops in to help us. Your soul shouts afterwards,"God did that! He carried me through this! His power is mighty! His strength lifted me up to the clouds! And we soared like eagles together! Not me, but God did this! It's so wonderful!"