Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Slices of Grace

My daughter Ruth met two girls at the park today, named Destiny and Nicole. This is important, so that's why I'm writing it down.

It's important, because Destiny and Nicole weren't the children we had hoped to meet. We had a play date today with several friends of Ruth's from preschool, and none of them showed. Not one. Not her best friend, not the boy who always has to have his way, not the shy girl, and not even the boy whose mother was so excited about the idea that she practically cried.

For more than an hour Ruth and I ran around the playground by ourselves. I chased her from one playset to the next, and we laughed like monkeys as we ran. We flew down slides, swung across monkey bars, spun on the tire swing and sang as much Stephen Sondheim as we wanted. Still, her friends never came.

I'm sure their parents had good reasons for not coming, and although I was disappointed, my hopes were never set that high in the first place. Sometimes preschool classes are closely knit, and even the parents become friends. Sometimes the classes aren't so close, and you're lucky if you know the names of the other parents when school is over.

Ruth's class this year was decidedly of the second sort. Everyone liked the idea of having informal play dates at the park once school was out for the year, but great ideas rarely work out the way you want them to. That's just life.

We had been there about an hour when a little girl named Destiny showed up. Even though she was two years older than Ruth, and even though she had never seen Ruth before, they started playing together immediately. They barely had exchanged names before Ruth was chasing Destiny around the playground, up ladders and down slides, and Destiny was offering to let her ride her bike.

This had gone on for about ten minutes, and it even included a trip on the tire swing, when Nicole arrived. In no time she had joined the troupe and they found their rhythm. Up the ladder, across the platform, down the chute. Up again, down again they moved, one after the other in a steady blur of giggles and dresses.

The girls played, they had fun, and then it was time for Ruth to go. It wasn't until we were in the car and on our way that she realized her that no one from preschool had come. She was crushed, and she cried. For a 3-year-old like Ruth, this was like being stood up at the prom.

Still, this is just the warm-up act. As Ruth gets older, she's going to have her share of dashed expectations. Friends will break their promises, deals will fall apart, success will be elusive, and from time to time she'll see treasured dreams come crashing painfully down. Sometimes the grief will belong to her, and sometimes it will belong to others.

When life hands her a bitter pie to eat, it’ll be easy for Ruth to make grief and self-pity her only companions, and to miss entirely the sweet slices of grace that Christ slips in, unnoticed. Easier still to miss is the chance to carry that grace to someone else. These displays of grace come unexpected and unannounced in the most unlikely and unexpected places, and their presence can make all the difference.

Today that grace came on the shoulders of two girls, named Destiny and Nicole, and I say it's important that they be remembered.

Copyright © 2006 by David Learn

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