A few days ago we went to the beach here in Morocco as a family. We had a little dinner then let Carter run wherever he so desired, as we were surrounded by sand dunes. It was the perfect playground – soft landings when he fell, plenty of space to run, make up his own mind, whatever.
After about 20 minutes I noticed he was falling a lot more than usual, so I got up and stood next to him. For a while I would call his name and remind him that I was there, and if he wanted help he could come grab my hand—but I knew that even if I tried I couldn’t force him to hold on. So I waited. For a couple more minutes he utterly refused, almost upset that I mentioned it. I watched him as he struggled to walk by himself up a sandy hill, almost losing more ground than he gained. Finally, when I offered my hand he grabbed it. Instantly he was able to move forward—slowly, but forward.
As we got to the top his grip wavered and he seemed to think he had could take it from there. I kept my hand available, but inevitably he loosened his hand and meandered on his own for a couple steps. Then he fell. He remembered that my hand was there and would grip once again, only to release a couple steps further and then fall. He repeated this for quite a while before realizing that he was only going to make progress if he kept holding on.
We walked a bit longer, but as I was leading him toward our towel he was wanting to go another direction. Knowing that if he let go of me he’d fall, he tried a new technique: guiding me where he wanted to go. But as one blessed with the gift of height, I was able to see beyond where he could from his short vantage point. Where he was attempting to lead us ended in a deep pit with rocks and glass—not the safest haven for a baby on a crash course.
So I held my position, and sure enough he tried and tried to pull me where he wanted. I would let him know that we needed to go another way, but he wouldn’t have it—he was so resolved to follow his own path that he became frustrated when I wouldn’t help him do it. It took him 5 minutes (or about 2 baby years) of pulling, twisting, and attempting to trick me before he realized I wasn’t budging, and if he really wanted to go that way he was going to have to do it without my help. So he went, and I stood right where I was and called to him in the hopes that he’d give it up and come back to me. After a minute or two of several more falls, he reached out for me. So I came over to him and he grabbed my hand. We walked back to the towel slowly and at his pace, but without any more spills.
I realized halfway through this event what was really going on. I’m not the kind of guy to find allusions to the Gospel every day, and I don’t spend time looking for them. But this was a pretty direct message. I was watching myself as I tend to go through life; I try to make it completely on my own, fall countless times expecting a different result, reach out only when its convenient for me, and even try to pull God the direction I want to go. And through all my pride, God has never ceased to reach down to pick me back up, even when I pretend He’s not there.
He’s always been there, and He always will be, and He will never stop trying to guide us home—no matter how deep the sand gets.