I’ve learned what to expect when I take my kids for a walk: my three-year-old hits the ground at a sprint. He charges into the wide world at full tilt, without a plan and without fear. He just has to run. He is a doer.
His sister, on the other hand, ambles along with her eyes on the ground, stopping every four or five steps to study a weed, or a worm, or a rock. She collects treasures all along the way until her chubby little hands can’t hold a single buttercup more. I’ll call her a thinker.
And then there’s me, stuck in between, calling after my son to slow down and pleading with my daughter to speed up. In a word: frustrated.
My kids’ behavior on the walking trail transfers pretty accurately to their overall approaches to life. One wants to go, explore, and conquer. The other wants to pause, study, and cherish. And unfortunately, my walking-trail behavior transfers pretty well, too: I want to control.
Both of my kids have learned the hard way that there are pitfalls to each mode of operation. Full-throttle Silas learned this morning that pushing a toy lawn mower on the sidewalk as fast as your legs can go – downhill – sometimes ends in a faceplant. Corinne learned that when you linger too long under a pear tree to study a violet, there is sometimes a partridge overhead with a present. Did I mention that both of those happened on the same walk?
But here’s what I’m learning from my kids: every single step they take is full of joy. The doer’s doing is borne of exuberance. The thinker’s thinking is borne of delight. They are willing to risk the pitfalls for the sheer joy of the journey.
Without meaning to, I sometimes let my desire for order squash that joy. Order has its place, of course, but when it strongarms the doer and rushes the thinker unnecessarily, it impairs creativity. It quenches the Spirit.
But when children have room to see, hear, taste, smell, and touch the world at their pre-set speed, they achieve a level of joy that can’t help but infect even us Grownups. And we get the great privilege of entering into that joy with them and giving it a Name.
When children remind us to do our doing wholeheartedly, we get to help them find Him Who Does Great Things in the wonderful, wild places they’ve yet to discover.
When they remind us to slow down and engage our thoughts, we get to show them the majesty of Him Who Thinks Unfathomable Thoughts painted on every petal of the purple-robed violets.
Their joy and ours is made more full in the sharing – not the controlling – of it. But a word of caution: it’s wise to wear a helmet, and watch out for pear trees.
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