The winter sun never makes it high in the sky. It gives this time of year a peculiar wistfulness. When I get lucky, my granddaughter comes over and we have a day together. There is an urgency to make the most of the remaining light; I never do housework. At night, she commands Bible stories, one after another. I had brought her to the shore last summer and packed a book of fairy tales for bedtime. But when I pulled it out, she said, "Do you have any stories about Jesus?" I quickly went for Mark, fast-paced and full of miracles. After an hour she said, "I'm going to sleep now," and she did.
We made a brick of suet to draw cardinals and hung it in the backyard. I shall have to tell her that only blackbirds have come so far. It will take a while for word to get around, my friend David says. I am trying to remember all the projects she wants to do with me. I should write them down because I don't remember well anymore. Here is a snatch of conversation I did have the wherewithal to scrawl on a notepad. That day her 3-year-old cousin was visiting too, and I was ladling pancake batter as they sat at the table:
He: "Why did Jesus have boo-boos on his knees?"
She: "People hated him."
She: "They all wanted to be boss of themselves, but God is king."
He: "We can take turns."
She: "But he's the big King. He made boys out of dirt and girls out of ribs."
The book of Daniel has a strange line: "As for the two kings, their hearts shall be bent on doing evil. They shall speak lies at the same table" (11:27). How blessed is my table this day to host such truth, and children's voices once more. When God wanted to paint a picture of the perfect bliss of the new earth, He gave us: "And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets" (Zechariah 8:5).
I am determined not to be maudlin. That would be the old trap again. Satan is king of the past and future, Jesus king of the present. Not the real past and future, of course, but our twisted versions. He keeps his victims chained there. He wears two hats-first the seducer, and afterward the accuser.
I had missed a major Bible doctrine about children back then: Delight in them. My first son would follow me through the house with urgent news about dinosaurs, but he had to work around my cleaning the bathroom. I didn't know eye contact was important at the time. It is not important, it is everything. "He will rejoice over you with gladness" (Zephaniah 3:17).
But "this is the day that the Lord has made." Not the day that is past, but this day. A command follows: "Let us rejoice and be glad in it" (Psalm 118:24). Thus we do not miss the boat that's here while mourning the boat that's sailed.
One of the hamsters was fatally wounded on my watch. If I had been alone, it might have met an undignified end over the railroad tracks. But we phoned Rau animal hospital and came with our patient, whom they took to another room and delivered back carefully wrapped and ready for a proper burial.
My granddaughter and I knew a place and went there, into the field, in from the road. We saw deer tracks in the snow and wild hay grass that she claimed was wheat. Some days later we went again to pay our respects. Then she wanted to venture farther, and we came upon a strangely gerrymandered body of ice, too small for a pond but way too big for a puddle. We skated on it and she said Jesus had shown us a place no one knew.
I believe that everything will be redeemed, even my failures. The nature of faith is that the more impossible things seem, the more pleasing to God the certainty of our bliss. Other than that I haven't much theological to say here. But I want to keep my promises to a little girl, and she asked me to write about the pond in the magazine.