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  • Erik Hatch

Walking Off the Bed

Walking off the bed

Last week my daughter Finley turned one. This is a wickedly fun age – she’s animated, she’s full of giggles, and she’s absurdly mobile. We’re constantly on our toes – as she will disappear in an instant…and I finally understand how the “silence” can and should freak out a parent when their kid goes out of eyesight!

One of my favorite times with Finley is early in the morning. After she wakes up, I take her out of her sleep sack (I had no idea these things even existed until I became a parent) and I cuddle her and play with her in bed. We laugh hysterically and just have some great father/daughter bonding time. But since Finley started walking about a month ago – I’ve had to be much more alert. She’ll stand on the bed (albeit squishy – not solid ground by any means) and will walk to the edge. If I don’t grab her, she’ll walk straight off the bed – no questions asked. She doesn’t see the giant drop or how this is a bad decision – she just wants to explore.

She’s one year old. Of course she doesn’t get it. It is my job, as her father, to protect her. But this is what gets me…I know that eventually I’ll have to sit back and watch her figuratively walk off the bed– and will unknowingly have to witness her fall. I can’t always protect her. I can’t always ensure that she’ll be safe. Daddy’s grasp can only extend so far.

Finley Hatch, 1 Years Old

I wonder if God feels this way. I wonder if He watches us “walk off the bed” – knowing we’ll crash and hurt ourselves in the process. I’m sure He doesn’t want us to do so…and yet He lets it happen. Why?

I have a buddy that’s an atheist – and I can’t say I blame him at times. Doubting a God that lets all the bad things in the world happen simply makes sense to me when times are tough. What kind of God would let us walk off the bed to crash and burn? What kind of parent lets their kid stumble and fall?

I think a good parent is the one that lets their kid stumble and fall. Certainly, when kids are young, parents have to emphatically remind children of the dangers and the repercussions of their actions or inaction. But there has to come a time to let go. There has to come a time when a parent trusts that – amidst the bad decisions – that their child will figure it out and be stronger from the missteps.

I don’t think God is like the parent who keeps their kid on a harness – pulling them back before they run away or step into harm’s way. I’m quite thankful for that, actually! God has put parents and family and loved ones into the lives of kids like Finley to help protect them and to nurture them – but we are called to eventually parent like God does. We’re called to let go of the harness and sometimes that means watching your child walk off the bed.

When I was a youth director, I had a young man involved in my youth group that was making a sea of mistakes. He was and is charming as all get out – and yet his choices were catastrophically damaging to himself and those around him. The first intervention I ever did was for this young man. I watched his parents break down time and time again – trying desperately to keep their kid from walking off the bed. But this teenager was set on a path that was full of bad decisions. He had to see for himself what would happen when he stepped off the bed. His determination to explore was catastrophic to those around him.

Fast forward years later. This “troublemaker” is gainfully employed. He’s a superb father. He’s bringing his kids to church. And we just got to help him buy his first house. I am immensely proud of who he has become. And I’m convinced that he simply had to find his own way. A harness would have not only have angered him – but it would’ve limited his personal development. It would have been catastrophic for his progression and growth.

Letting His children walk off the bed must be intensely difficult for God – knowing that we’ll stumble and fall. And yet – He lets us do it – over and over again. I think that the love it takes to let someone walk off the bed must be a deep love. I know that when it comes time to watch Finley step over that edge, I will be scared to death. I pray fervently that God will protect her and that she’ll rebound and find her way.

For now, though – I’m going to grab her every time she comes close to that edge. After all – she’s one year old and doesn’t know any better. But when she has to learn for herself – I pray with all my might for God’s grace to be the net that catches her.

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