ValueSpeak
A Weekly Column
By Joseph Walker

GOD'S BABIES

Jon is the youngest of our five children. Our baby.

But at age 10, he doesn't SEEM like a baby.

He's just a few inches shorter than his mother - which isn't saying much, since Anita is sort of a shrimp. At the rate he's growing, he'll shoot past her in the next year or so, and before long he'll pass his sisters, and eventually his big brother, and me, too. This is why Joe and I are trying to play as much basketball with him as we can now - while we still tower over him.

Jon is growing in other ways, as well. He's doing great in school, and somehow seems to have missed out on the infamous Walker Anti-Math gene.

He gets along well with his friends, and has even begun to notice that girls can be interesting - and fun.

And when he accidentally learned about a certain Big Secret during the recent holiday season, he handled it with maturity and a level head - and only a few disappointed tears.

It's fun to watch him grow up - and kind of hard, too. He represents the end of an era for Anita and I, and to tell you the truth, it's an era I'm not altogether sure I'm ready to relinquish. I love being a Dad. And yes, I know that I will always be "Dad" to my children.

But somehow, it's not the same when your kids are old and on their own. For one thing, the older kids get, the more complicated - and expensive - their problems become. And for another, when they are old they don't see you as The Ultimate Source of All Truth and Knowledge - rather, you're just another pit stop on the information superhighway.

And usually the last pit stop, at that.

So when Jon got sick a couple of weeks ago I was anxious to nurture and care for my child. And this illness gave me every opportunity to do so. We're still not exactly sure what the problem was, although we knew it wasn't serious. But whatever it was, it was a pain. Literally. Jon had gas pains in his stomach so intense it doubled him over and brought tears to his eyes. And to mine.

The pains would come and go. Sometimes he would reach out for me. "Daddy," he would cry, "it hurts!"

I would pick him up in my arms and carry him to the couch. He would lay there with his head in my lap, while I stroked his face and played with his hair. He seemed to like that.

And so did I.

Now, I'm not trying to say that I'm glad Jonathan got sick. It was hard to watch him suffer, hard to see the tears and the pain in his eyes. But I knew he was going to be OK, and I was glad I could be there to give him comfort and love and to help him through it.

As I sat there trying to soothe my son - hurting for him, and yet savoring the feeling of being there for him - I couldn't help but wonder if maybe sometimes God feels that way. He watches us. He sees us learning and growing, functioning independently and feeling like we've got everything under control. Then something happens - something painful - and with tears running down our cheeks we reach out to Him. "Oh, God," we cry, "it hurts!"

At such times, I can almost feel Him gathering us in His arms, His fingertips stroking our faces and playing with our hair - comforting us. Loving us. And helping us through it.

Not because He's God. But because He's our parent. And we're His babies.

Even if we don't SEEM like babies.

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--- © Joseph Walker

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Look for Joe's book, "How Can You Mend a Broken Spleen? Home Remedies for an Ailing World." It is available on-line through www.Amazon.com.