I went on a walk today. We are in the midst of social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many regions are under stay-at-home orders, such as where I live, but that won’t stop me from going outside for some light exercise while I’m working from home. Truth be told, I’ve gotten out more this week than before the coronavirus crossed the shores!
It’s struck me everyday this week how congenial we are to each other now that we all have an underlying bond of unspoken understanding; something along the lines of, ‘Hi there, glad you’re enjoying this weather too during this strange time’ or ‘Ah, you’re taking advantage of this time while you can too, huh?’ Or, ‘Might as well get out since there’s not much else we can do right now’.
Trust me, I’ve been on both sides of the fence in terms of how I feel about social distancing and the restrictions placed on social gatherings right now. And yet, smiles have been put on my face reading the notes of encouragement and Scripture written in chalk on the sidewalks by neighborhood kiddos. I can’t help but notice that small hand waves and eye contact acknowledge each passerby rather than us looking down and pretending to not notice the other (or was it just me who did that?).
A ride down memory-lane
I went on a walk today. About two-thirds through my walk, I saw a family in their front yard. The father and daughter were practicing kicking a ball at a target into a net, with grandmother sitting and watching. The son was riding his bike. He rode it down the driveway and turned to the right and began riding down the sidewalk away from the house. He rode near the end of the sidewalk before it made a 90-degree turn, no more than 30 yards or so. Then he stopped and turned around to ride back toward his house.
In that moment, I was brought back to my own childhood, where I was that small child riding the bike down the sidewalk. Whereas I can now see how short of a distance it was, I vividly recall a similar distance feeling expansive! As a child, I remember the boundaries that my parents set for me to ride my bike. ‘You can go down to the house with the white fence, but once you get there, turn back around and come back. I need to be able to see you.’ I also vividly remember the feeling I would have if I ever started to go past the white fence. ‘I don’t want to get in trouble!’ (I’m generally a goodie-two-shoes, so I’ll save the story of when I followed my dad on a bike outside of the neighborhood when he told me to stay home for another time…)
Freedom in boundaries
But then I was struck by a thought. Why were those boundaries set by the parents of that young boy? Was it out of danger? Hardly. I can tell you that there is nothing dangerous past that 90-degree turn down the next street. Why were boundaries set by my parents? We as a family had gone on neighborhood walks and rides past the white fence, so why could I not go past there on my own? Was it out of malice that my parents set the boundaries? I realized – No. It was out of LOVE. The deep, unexplainable love that a parent has for their child. They set expectations and boundaries because they want to keep their child safe, not ruin their fun.
Would my parents discipline me if I went beyond the boundaries? Definitely. Rather than out of anger, it was LOVE that drove the response of disciplining and reminding me of the boundary. They love me SO MUCH that they will do everything they can to keep me safe, including setting boundaries based on their wisdom and broader perspective of the world around me.
That. That is a simple picture of God’s love for us – for you and for me. God knows the world; He knows the entirety of the safe and the dangerous. He knows the guardrails that need to be in place to keep us from hurting ourselves or getting ourselves into trouble. He’s not doing it to squash our fun or be a killjoy. In most cases He’s doing it to protect us from ourselves.
Riding in -and with- the Truth
How often do ungodly beliefs about who God is, lies from the enemy about our identity in Him, or worldly lifestyles that leave us questioning our purpose result in unwanted bondage? Anger, negativity, dissatisfaction, anxiety, fear, loneliness… just to name a few. But when we receive God’s truths spoken over us as His beloved children, when we realize that God is not angry at us but LOVES us and is always with us, and when we see the potential for discovering more of the world with Him leading us and showing the boundaries to us, we can ride in freedom above the bondage that tries to throw us off the path.
God does not want us to live in or with bondage, but we are free to do so and live with the consequences of that choice. When we turn back around, or He catches us to stop us, we don’t have to be afraid of an angry God who will never love us again for stepping out of his bounds. His love is abounding with grace and acceptance. He wants us to live holy (set apart) lives in His freedom, not by worldly freedom that leads to brokenness.
Does the little boy know the whole neighborhood that he could just go off on his own and come back? Not likely. I certainly didn’t when I was his age. But his parents know the neighborhood or at least have more developed navigation and safety skills. Of course, they can certainly explore more of the neighborhood together, just like my family did every so often. And there’s the key – together. God can guide us into new places of discovery – and the discovery is always amazing! – but we can’t discover more of Him without Him being there.
God with us
I went on a walk today. And God was with me.
“Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind.”
Psalm 107:8, 15, and 31 (NIV)
And He walks with me and He talks with me
And He tells me I am His own
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever knownExcerpt from “In the Garden” hymn by C. Austin Miles
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