Funny, the things you remember. When my younger sister and I were really little – I’m talking maybe 4 and 5 years old – we went to the nursery at the seminary where my parents were both students. We didn’t know anyone, of course, and we were scared, so we clung tightly to each other after our parents dropped us off.
The large room was divided into two, with a low partition between the sides. One area was for the younger children; there were the usual coloring books and stuffed animals and puzzles with giant pieces. On the other side of the room was the area for the older kids. I’m sure there were lots of toys there, too, but all I remember is the blocks. There were dozens of wooden blocks in every size and there were even those sturdy cardboard ones painted to look like bricks.
Oh, how I wanted to play with those blocks, but it would mean being separated from my little sister, since she belonged on the other side of the room. I was torn between my protectiveness of her and my desire to build a “house” out of cardboard bricks. It was agony for a little kid.
One of the teachers, apparently sensing my dilemma, offered that we could both stay on the big kid side, but “only if you don’t hold hands”.
I’m sure she probably meant well. Maybe she wanted us to learn to be independent of one another, to be “big girls”. (I think she might have even used that phrase, “be big girls”.) Of course, it would also have been hard to play with the blocks if we continued to hold hands. So maybe she was just being practical and it was as simple as that.
All I know is, it felt mean to me at the time. In the end, having my sister near – even if I couldn’t hold on to her – was acceptable if it meant I got to stack blocks. But I still remember that pit in my stomach when we had to drop our hands (and I don’t even want to tell you how many decades ago that was).
Recently that memory resurfaced when I read this line from a Puritan prayer:
“O Divine Redeemer…Great was thy grace in commanding me to come hand in hand with thee to the Father…”
I love that image – it instantly evokes feelings of innocence, love, and safety. It creates a longing in my heart that feels like homesickness.
Imagine the thrill of being commanded not to drop the hand of the one you love in order to be satisfied, but to hold on. Of being told to lace fingers with Christ himself and enter the presence of God.
In my mind, I’m 5 years old again, and my little sister and I are each holding hands with Christ. No one is telling us to buck up and be a “big girl”, no one is saying “You can stay, but only if you don’t hold hands.”
Not that you could tempt either one of us to let go of Christ. Not for cardboard blocks…not for anything.
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