I went for a walk with my kids to the park a few months back. On the way back, the youngest (then 20 months) got out of our wagon and the two oldest got in.
As I was walking with the little guy, I noticed that he wasn’t really holding my hand, but I was holding his. On his part, I’m guessing he was just aware that he was walking with his dad, enjoying the sights.
At one point, he pulled away, and I wondered if he was getting irritated with me. I don’t think so, because as we were coming up to a street we had to cross, I grabbed his hand, paying attention to whether he would resist at all, and he didn’t – he just let me save him from the danger and guide him by holding his hand tight once again.
As we walked on, I noticed that as I had loosened my grip, he had started to cling to a couple of my fingers. Once again, I’m thinking it’s a fair guess to say that he didn’t really notice this difference between my grasping his hand tightly from the fact that he was now clinging to me.
When we came to a long straight away from any intersections, I asked him if he’d just like to walk with me, without my holding his hand. He smiled at that idea, and upon release merrily strolled along, enjoying the walk, much as he had been doing before.
Of course, perhaps he got too comfortable with that after a while, as he got a better feel for the landscape – and sensed a new level of personal control and independence. This seems a fair guess, as when we came up to the next intersection and I grabbed his hand, he made it clear that my paternalism was pure oppression.
I let go of his hand again after we had crossed the street, and eventually, as we got closer to our house (and he had taken pleasure in crushing a hapless ant), I asked him if he’d like me to pick him up and carry him the rest of the way (he’d gone about 1/2 a mile I’d say). He put up his hands and let me take him. I took this as a sign of repentance for his previously rejecting my guidance. 🙂
There are all kinds of analogies to be drawn here between us and our heavenly Father, but I’ll just focus on one aspect. Lutherans talk about the distinction between Law and Gospel. The Law is tells us what we are to do, and when it shows us our sin, we sense conviction in our conscience. The Gospel, on the other hand, tells us what Jesus has done for us to save us from our sin. This distinction is critical when it comes to the matter of confessing and forgiving sin: for we must always be reminded that it is God who continually takes the first step, as he convicts, forgives, renews, and guides time and again. As we live day by day however, enjoying His Presence, the conscience awareness of who is doing what does not necessarily play a large part – nor does it need to, so long as we remember that we have nothing that we have not received.