"Excuse me, um, your daughter is, like, on top of the playground equipment ... you know, with the big kids!"
The two-year-old's aging parents suppressed a yawn in response as we thanked her for the concern. Alarm might have registered had she not been climbing to the top of everything since she could walk, tackling her six- and seven-year-old brothers with impunity, using bunk bed slats to hang and release to a full dismount and sneaking into the dryer to throw wet clothes out as my wife threw them in.
Alarm might also have happened were we not 46 ... and tired.
She topped herself the other day, jetting onto the first floor sun porch and climbing a stroller which enabled her to jump from an open window. She cleared the landscaping but didn't quite make the yard, landing on a sidewalk which divides the two. A sizeable shiner now creases the side of her face. Not the first, and hardly the last.
I felt partially responsible. I was working outside when it happened, and she had done the same thing prior to the crash. Only that time I was there to catch her as she jumped. So I turned my back. Surely she wouldn't jump out on her own. Yeah. We needed that alarmed playground Mom nearby this time.
She will be fine. But amidst the comforting, crying and clean up, I noticed a look of confusion and a trace of something I hadn't seen before - fear.
Fear is easy to learn in a world with hard edges, hard times and hard sidewalks. Plan for it, hide from it, run from it and the chance of emotional, spiritual or physical bruising is pretty much 100 percent. We all land hard sometimes, life can land hard on us ... and death lands hardest of all.
God's medicine for fear can appear worse than the disease. It was God who bid trembling humans to pick up a snake by the tail, walk on water and fight a six-figure army with 300 men carrying trumpets, torches and jars.
It was God who allowed Daniel to be thrown to the lion's den, Daniel's friends to be thrown into a fiery furnace and Joseph to be thrown into an Egyptian prison.
It was God who celebrated a woman who released her last pennies to the temple treasury, a man who believed his servant could be healed at Jesus' word and a young man who believed that five stones, a sling and God were more than enough to defeat a giant's armor and sword.
It was God who sent Abraham trudging toward a mountain to sacrifice his beloved son, with Isaac's deliverance then unknown.
It was God who sent His own Son to a cross.
These stories have one thing in common for each of us: they were somebody else's stories. I refer to them often when facing a situation that seems unreasonable, unexplainable, unsolvable or unredeemable. But it is still somebody else, and then it is me, wanting to live a faith-soaked life even as this life is soaking me in fear.
Lest we believe that life with God is a domain for trapeze artists and reckless thrill-seekers, a journey to the center is necessary.
"For by grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves. It is the gift of God. Not of works lest any man should boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9)
Life with God begins, and mostly ends, with a simple acceptance of sacrificial grace in response to our sin. No amount of snake-grabbing, water walking or giant-slaying will earn what God has freely given to those who accept the blood of Christ as the full satisfaction for their sins.
"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. Yes, we are now His, freed from the need to earn anything by what we do. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Yes, God had something in mind when he created us, and then re-created us in Christ. The things we do for Him not a wage, but a wonder.
"Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us."
Yes, now even the hard crash of our sufferings are linked to something - to the amazing work He is doing in flawed human lives. That is our hope. Others discovered it. Jesus guarantees it. We can know it too.
What we do is no longer the point. Our response to what God is doing in us makes all the difference.
I've noticed just a trace of reserve in my crazy 2-year-old since her crash landing on the sidewalk. In some ways, I am thankful. In other ways ...
... keep jumping, little girl. Daddy was there to catch you on your first leap, and he was there to hug, console and patch you up after the second one. I will be there as long as I can.
Your Father will always be there. Sometimes to catch, sometimes to console and sometimes to deliver after the fall. Your Father will always be there. Learn to know Him, and You will leap into the amazing eternity of His plan. His perfect love casts out all fear.
Andy Meiser is the pastor of the Eshcol Brethren in Christ Church in Ickesburg.