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A reflection on 1 John 3:1-2, who we are, whose we are, and the hope we have in each other.
A few days ago Kathi and I started in on our summer vacation plans for the year. While we’ve tried to keep planning particulars between the two of us – the element of surprise is fun with the kids – Graham seems to have caught wind that we’re working on something.
“Can we go back to the cabin that had Chocolate the horse?” he asks, reminiscing about our trip to Southeast MN the year prior. Each morning during that week-long trip we visited Chocolate, the brown and white mare, who lived in the field right behind the cabin. The owners invited us to talk, pet and even feed her a bit of carrots or apples.
In their own way the kids ate it up too.
During the day we read and hiked and took trips to the nearby pool, which was, to our surprise, open. Often we were the only ones there splashing around.
By night we’d cook and play board games and fire up our Nintendo DS handhelds for some four player Mario Kart or Mario Party. Some evenings we’d head back outside, having fireside s’mores to end the day.
I asked our kids about what else they enjoyed about family vacations; their responses came easily.
Both our kids appreciate adventure, the chance to explore new places, the opportunity to see the world. Hannah likes to just go, and not get cooped up in the house. With no work for parents, no school for kids, minimal outside distractions for us all, we could enjoy each other’s company and simply be.
Graham remembers first walking into the rented cabin in vivid detail, saying ohmygosh, I have to check out every room! And we get our own rooms? Whoa! Look at that huge couch! And the firepit outdoors! I can hear a horse neighing!
A year later and our first grader can recall that opening vacation scene like it was yesterday.
Ah to have a sense of child-like wonder.
Both kids also mentioned they enjoyed learning new things they might not have known before.
Our kids learned while on vacation in 2020 – true story – that there is more than one meaning, and more than one spelling for the word dam. When I ordered the local special for lunch one day, asking for the Big Dam Fritter, our kids initially gasped.
“Dad, you said a bad word!” Graham exclaimed. “No,” I replied, “dam, spelled D-A-M is a barrier that stops water. We drove over one to get here.” Their gasps turned to laugher.
They then quickly pivoted to practicing how to playfully use this newfound word.
“How is your Big Dam Fritter?” Hannah asked, giggling. It was really pretty good.
Our pandemic vacations last summer were nothing flashy. With so much still closed, and long-distance travel discouraged, the experience, for us, was somewhat muted. There were no baseball games to watch, no amusement parks to conquer, no epic long road trips to pass the time. Normally our family enjoys these kinds of things.
But we had us. And for our family of four that was enough.
Compared to our grown-up counterparts being a child has some advantages. It comes with a parent or two that has your back. As a kid there is space to learn, to grow, to receive guidance. Kids have the chance to try out responsibilities with pets and dishwashing and trash day, experiences that serve them well as adults. Kids have opportunities to appreciate the newness of the world around, with wild eyed wonder that become less frequent as we age.
As a kid you’re not expected to have all the answers. Asking questions is the norm, encouraged, rewarded.
And oh the opportunities to play! Children have the chance, almost daily, to play together with reckless abandon. On the playground they chat with friends, create games, learn to cooperate, play to win. Sometimes play gets rough. Sometimes kids hurt each other. Sometimes kids need to give and receive forgiveness too.
And if things get too far out of hand, and kids can’t figure out how to make something right on their own, that’s entirely ok. Just talk to mom or dad, they’ll listen. They’ll share some perspective. They’ll point you toward how to fix what has been broken. All so you can get back to playing in the sandbox of life, once again.
But earthly parents don’t have all the answers. We can’t always make it right. Sometimes life gets broken in ways not easily fixed.
Thank goodness we can rely on someone with infinite wisdom, infinite experience, infinite love. For the Father cares for us so much we have been given a new name: child of God.
This new status is celebrated on our baptism day, an identity baked into us from the very beginning. Child of God, you have been sealed by the Holy Spirit, marked by the cross of Christ, forever. You have not just earthly parents, but Godparents, and a community there to support and care for you daily.
As a child of God we been adopted into a heavenly family. Grafted into a tree so much larger than any Ancestry.com or 23 and Me DNA chart could ever show.
Within God’s family tree there are no comparisons of who is who. There are no winners, no losers based on who you are or where you’re from. There is just identity, connection, being part of something so much greater than ourselves. For we are all part of the whole, made in the image of our Creator. Put here not by chance but design. Called to live in right relationship with our God, with each other.
To do that well we’re going to need some help. Fortunately we have a heavenly Father always there, ready to listen, ready guide, ready to love. A heavenly Father available by book, by petition, by prayer. A heavenly Father that has given us siblings we can connect with in the here and now.
As a child of God we have access to a parent offering us a lifetime of new experiences, better than any single vacation could contain. Each day we’re offered the space to learn, to grow, to confess, to forgive. Each day we’re offered the chance to be closer to what we are called to be.
For as grown up as we may be on this earth, what we are to become has not yet been revealed. We are only children, after all, playing in the sandbox of life. We remain an unfinished work, still being molded into something beautiful, something new. For now we see in a mirror, dimly. It is only later when we will fully know. Just as we have been fully known.
With so much still to learn, so much growing left to do, there will be some good days, and some bad days too. For life in this unfinished kingdom is not yet complete.
But we have us.
We have help from on high.
And that, fellow child of God, is enough.