A baby walker must have seemed like a good idea to my parents at the time. Not yet toddling (though filled with plenty of momentum), I probably appeared to be an ideal candidate for the wheeled vehicle as they positioned it on the wooden farmhouse floor and placed harmless, little me on the seat inside for the first (and the last) time.
I took that hunk of plastic for a reckless spin with eyes sparkling wildly and bare feet barely touching the old floorboards. When they finally caught up with me, I was promptly un-seated and my new toy quickly disappeared – never to be seen again.
One of my favorite things to do as a young girl was to spin around in circles in the living room. Arms spread wide and eyes (sometimes) open, I would whirl around until overcome by dizziness. I can still remember the sensation of falling to the floor and letting the world continue to spin while I fought to sit still. As soon as I could stand up without leaning to one side or the other, my outstretched arms propelled me into yet another flight and I would fall, giggling, to the floor. Over. And over. And over again.
I grew up in a community with some pretty amazing parks, but my favorite was next to the local branch of our public library. The library was something of an attraction, but the main event was what happened outside, at Hippie Hill. It was the 70’s, so maybe this spot earned its name by association with those who frequented it, but I really don’t remember any hippies. All I remember is climbing to the top of this smooth, grassy hill, laying down with arms extended pencil-style overhead, and letting the downhill grade do the rest.
All around me were other kids and even some adults (maybe hippies?) doing the very same thing – rolling with increasing speed toward the gentler slope at the bottom. If you would let yourself roll until you couldn’t squeeze out another revolution, you would lay smiling at the bottom in grass-angel position until the approach of another speeding body signaled that it was time to mount the hill and begin again. Roll. Rest. Repeat.
There is something purely magical about momentum when you’re a kid.
The adrenaline rush and nauseating dizziness created by spinning wildly, rolling powerfully or twirling gracefully is something that most of us walked away from long ago. The freedom to be a child, unchained from the judgmental tyranny of onlookers, disappeared for most of us with the acquisition of driver’s licenses, babysitting jobs and prom dates. Now, as adults who are responsible for children, we strap on the protective gear and smother them with safety, steering clear of Hippie Hill and other kid-magnets with risks we would rather not entertain today. Or tomorrow. Or ever.
It’s one thing to become wiser and safer, but with wisdom and caution often come anxiety and rigidity and stiffness toward the mystery and energy of simply being alive. We grow up – that’s what what we always wanted, right? – and we grow dull. And tired. And tense. The sheer exhilaration of being alive is tempered by a drivenness for managing life and we find ourselves sitting atop the hill in a walker without wheels, afraid of what might happen if we were to let gravity whisk us down the slopes of life at a pace we didn’t set. At a speed we cannot fully control. On a trajectory that we haven’t mapped out for ourselves.
The psalmist paints a portrait of that spinning inner child, all grown up and yet all grown down in the Kingdom of God:
“God—you’re my God! I can’t get enough of you! I’ve worked up such hunger and thirst for God, traveling across dry and weary deserts. So here I am in the place of worship, eyes open, drinking in your strength and glory. In your generous love I am really living at last! My lips brim praises like fountains. I bless you every time I take a breath; My arms wave like banners of praise to you. I eat my fill of prime rib and gravy; I smack my lips. It’s time to shout praises! If I’m sleepless at midnight, I spend the hours in grateful reflection. Because you’ve always stood up for me, I’m free to run and play. I hold on to you for dear life, and you hold me steady as a post.” Psalm 63:1-2, 5 (The Message)
Some of us have forgotten that all we really need in order to live life to the full is the outrageously generous love of God.
Some of us are so busy standing up to fear and worry that we’ve allowed these bullies to dictate how we live – yet God Himself stands up to them for us so that we can revel in the magic of momentum while we roll and run and play… and spin.
Our world has a desperate need for spin doctors of the barefoot and giggling variety.
You may have to actually close your eyes to remember what it felt like to be this ridiculously alive – so close ’em tight! Feel the breeze on your skin created by your twirling, the tickle of the grass as you rolled down the hill. Want What You’ve Got in your memory-bank of living and make it your goal to get some of it back today.
Daily Questions: Which childhood activities bring back sensory-memories of feeling free, unchained, exhilarated? How might you recapture these feelings in some tangible way today? When was the last time that you played with a child? Surprise your own (or borrow someone else’s) and simply drink in the energy and imagination of a child! Smack your lips! Shout your praise! Wave those arms! Come alive.