Out for my morning run, I passed a child toddling on legs still new enough to be unsteady. Her father sat on the curb, watching as she explored the smooth path a meter or two from his knees.
As she wobbled toward the opposite curb and the uneven grassy strip beyond, her father rose and stood behind her, taking each of her little hands in his. So gentle he was, and so unobtrusive, that the little girl seemed almost as unaware of her held hands as of the obstacles threatening her stability. Her gait quickened, though, and, hands still held, she stepped easily over the curb and ran on the grass, her bright eyes continuing to explore the exciting world in front of her.
She didn’t turn to look at her father.
She didn’t pause to consider the obstacles in her path.
She seemed simply to trust that if hands were offered, hands were what she needed, and they would always be there when she needed them.
Her father didn’t break her play by picking her up, didn’t, in that moment, call her name or turn her toward him. He took her hands to facilitate her freedom, gave her the gift of himself to give her the gift of herself and her world, helping her discover that the world is a beautiful and exciting gift to be explored. His presence enlarged her world, made her safer and stronger than she was on her own. Stronger to enjoy. Stronger to explore. Stronger to play.
His gentle love set her free.
“I am the LORD, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” (Isaiah 41:13)