How does a child spell love?
I find that when children ask us to love them, they are invariably asking for our undivided attention. For the gift of time. Time to play. Time to ask questions. Time to hold one another and feel really close.
Yet time is the one thing many of us clutch to ourselves. We agonize over its swift passage, its scarcity, its elusiveness. If you take the time to read this article, you may even be feeling that your very life is slipping away.
I was reminded of this a few days ago by the sight of a small boy of about three, slowly - oh, so slowly! - kicking his way through the snow alongside a frozen pond. I could see only the back of this tiny figure in a navy hooded parka, blue jeans, waterproof boots, and scarlet backpack. But I couldn't help noticing the quiet determination - even self-assurance - with which he negotiated shoulder-high banks of snow.
Trailing behind was a mother-figure - vigilant and reassuring, happy to adjust to his pace, holding back to allow room for the young Edmund Hillary to press forward independently.
It would be hard to understate the spirit of adventure I saw in that child. He was on a journey. Every step, especially on the high mounds, was just a little bit risky, but essential for progress. He'd discovered that there is a new and exciting view to be enjoyed from the top of every snow mountain.
Sometimes he changed pace. His escort had to pause while he responded to different promptings. She seemed to know that you have to wait while a child examines a snowflake or picks a feather off the ice and finds it beautiful - and worth keeping.
Frequently the little fellow paused to prod the snow with a damp boot, then walk on, slowly and meditatively. The sun skidded across the frozen pond, but not even that smudge of pure gold distracted his concentration, mission, firm purpose.
The woman watching that small boy showed extraordinary patience, caring, involvement, watchfulness - all of which could be spelled L-O-V-E. Clearly, time - and even the call of a distant school bell - mattered less to her than the learning she saw happening in the snow.
Perhaps she knew that when discovery is in the air, nothing can thwart it - least of all the preoccupation with time, or what the founder of this newspaper called "Mortal measurements; limits, in which are summed up all human acts, thoughts, beliefs, opinions, knowledge ..." (Mary Baker Eddy, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," pg. 595).
I find that time is best experienced when not measured in human terms at all. Sometimes we have to learn to enjoy time by letting it pass. Discover that we can have the time of our life by not counting the passing moments. If the office desk piles up or we fail to answer a few phone calls promptly, maybe we've actually got our priorities in better shape - especially when children are the beneficiaries.
What's more, the child in us - the fresh sincerity with which we open our minds to infinite possibilities - blesses us with snow-mountain discoveries of our own. One of them may be that a deeply caring God has all the time in the world for us. His love is patient, kind. "It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres" (I Cor. 13:7).
January days can never be too cold or too hot, depending on where we live, for the exhilarating exercise of expanding our understanding of God and His world - a kingdom unfettered by human measurements of any kind.
I find that when you break free of the manacles of time, you discover new ways of expressing love. Your sense of adventure is loosened, too. The first days of a new year can be radiant with promise. Nothing is too big or too difficult to tackle. Opportunities beckon you with gloved hands if it's winter; with widespread, warm fingers if it's summer.
One day is with the Lord
as a thousand years,
and a thousand years
as one day.
II Peter 3:8