"Please, YaYa, outside? YaYa, outside please?” My conversation with Katy was suddenly hijacked by her little two-year-old sitting on the counter between us. My darling granddaughter took matters into her own hands - literally - and, placing five small, determined fingers on each side of my face, turned my head so that I would look into her big blue eyes. Now that she had my full attention, she repeated, “Please, YaYa, outside?”
Suddenly, nothing else mattered but the little curly-haired blonde who has stolen all our hearts. She’s been saying my name for over a year. I gotta say, I feel pretty special about that, too. I was third in line for name recognition with top awards going to Mama and Dada, respectively. I quickly scooped up this two syllable gibberish and claimed it as my own. No other grandmotherly names quite fit, and since she could say “yaya” which is Greek for “grandma”, and since my first name is, technically, Greek - well, there you go.
Can’t you just feel your heart melting as you picture it? Sweet little toddler fingers cupping my face, turning my head until we were eyeball to eyeball, and then politely asking me to take her outside and play with her. She wanted to play with me. I don’t know what captures my heart more - that she loves being with me or that she knows how to cut through adult busyness with a simple invitation to join her in childish delights.
I’ve been amazed at the response in me with the arrival of this little darling in our world. It’s been almost fifty years since I was her age, but she’s teaching me to slow down and enjoy life from her perspective. For example, coming from a hairdo junkie like me, it’s practically jaw dropping when I scooch under a blanket with my tiny tutor and play peeky boo. I don’t even care that I’ll look like the bride of Frankenstein when I emerge. Knowing I’ll make Allie giggle is worth every static strand of flyaway hair. And I am so surprised to realize that I have genuinely retired from motherhood’s responsibilities. Now I can barely stand to watch my daughter put this little one in time-out. She might as well say, “Allie, you and YaYa go sit in the corner until you can behave and YaYa can stop making excuses for you.” No one but me seems to understand that Allie’s not having a temper tantrum - she’s just tired or thirsty or hungry or understandably frustrated with us or too short . . . I figured all of this out sitting cross-legged facing a wall last week.
So, can you blame me when I say she has me wrapped around her little fingers? Especially when those little fingers are wrapped around my face? Knowing that “a little child shall lead them”, I just can’t help thinking this is one of God’s favorite ways to get my attention, too. He gently places His hands around my heart and turns my full attention to Him. He isn’t rude or brutal or angry. Rather, He’s gentle, confident and direct. He just loves to put the busyness of my life in perspective and invite me to slow down, hide with Him for a few minutes and enjoy His delight.
It’s a far different picture of God than the one I’ve seen painted for most of my life. I suppose it might even seem irreverent to some people. But I’ve never been able to cozy up to a God of righteous indignation and high expectations. It’s exasperating to hear a well-intentioned teacher admonish that God wants to have a personal relationship with me just as soon as I clean up my act, dot every ‘i’, and smooth every stray lock. This is the gospel according to many sincere people. But it’s deadly. It’s crippling. It’s a lie. The truth is that God took a leave of absence from His Holy Hideaway and came down to my level. He experienced life as I do, overcame it, and invited me into His world.
I hold few illusions of what a great Christian I am anymore. I’ve given up the charade for Lent . . . Or Groundhog Day . . . Or Cinco de Mayo. Take your pick. I’ve taken off my mask. I’m too tired to wear it anymore. The kind of perfection I can create is lifeless and hopeless, while the kind of life God offers is full of hope and peace. This is a no-brainer. It's a better deal when I can put aside being responsible for everything and put myself instead into the capable hands of the One Who has always held me close, inviting me to rest in Him.
"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly." (Matthew 11:28-30 The Message)
There’s no shame in being a child when you are a child. I'm His child.