Mysterious Ways


One of the best things about living where we do is that we are within minutes of the Blue Ridge Parkway and some of the most beautiful country on the east coast. This last weekend we decided to take advantage of the break in humidity and take our kids hiking on a nearby trail. We got an early start—early for us anyway—and soon we were winding our way up the side of a mountain, absorbed in all the beauty and intricate detail of a September morning in western Virginia.For the most part, it was pretty uneventful—the children’s initial enthusiasm cycled through the expected stages of hyperactivity to drooping shoulders to eventual pleading to be carried up the hills. For my part, I offered obligatory cautions about not getting too far ahead of us on the trail, not throwing sticks, and not eating acorns--although (“But, Mommy, did you know…”) I've been informed that technically you can.

We were walking along a particularly steep section of trail that ran just above a mountain stream when my daughter suddenly took off at breakneck speed. Apparently, despite my warnings, the sheer wonder of reaching the water below was too much for her. My maternal imagination kicked in with visions of her stumbling and careening over the edge, and I was just about to offer another warning when her six-year-old brother beat me to it.

“Sister, slow down! You’re going to fall. Just be patient.”

And suddenly my heart soared. Did I hear him correctly? Not only was he looking out for her, but he understood to connect her recklessness to a character quality! As far as parenting goes, this was a back-to-back win. Especially in light of the fact that we’ve spent the last three weeks working through a small book called Get Wisdom. It's designed to teach children core Christian virtues like love, thankfulness, and yes, even patience. I think each lesson is meant to involve my reading through the associated Scripture and then engaging the children in meaningful dialogue about how the highlighted virtue plays out in their lives. In reality, I usually make it through the Scripture and our “meaningful” dialogue devolves into a discussion of the existential quality of boogers.

I wasn’t sure how much impact it was having.

So here, in this one blissful moment on a wooded trail in the middle of the Blue Ridge Mountains, my hope of actually rearing these three children to responsible adulthood was restored. And, like the well-read parent that I am, I knew that I needed to affirm this moment with my son.


“Buddy, that’s exactly right. Patience is exactly what we need right now. We’ll get down to the creek very soon, but if we’re impatient and run, we might fall and get hurt. Good job!”His faced beamed and he gave me one of his signature lopsided grins.

“Thanks, Mommy. (pause) You know where I learned that?”

“From Get Wisdom, right?”

“Nope. I learned it from Kung Fu Panda: Secrets of the Furious Five.”

(the giant whooshing sound of my hopes evaporating)

“You didn’t learn it from Get Wisdom?”

“No, not really. I learned it from Kung Fu Panda”

Later, after we'd returned home, I was reliving this moment along with the beauty that had surrounded us--a beauty in which  every branch and every rivulet seemed to speak His name—and I realized that maybe my view of God was too small. Because truthfully, God isn’t a God that can be contained. He is so big that He fills the mountains and the streams and the valleys and when you have eyes to see Him, He just starts popping everywhere! You can’t hold back His wisdom either. You can’t contain it in a book of virtues or ten-minute sessions at breakfast. No, this God, this marvelously transcendent God, is making Himself known throughout the world and displaying His character sometimes in things as inconsequential as a child’s DVD.

I wonder if this is part of the reason why the Scripture tells us to talk about Him to our children “when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise up.” It’s not that we must attempt to make every moment a “spiritual” one--it’s that every moment already is by the sheer magnitude of His presence. And even while we faithfully teach our children about Him, we must also remember that He is faithfully teaching our children as well. Because no matter where they go--no matter if they sit down or rise up or walk by the way or wade in a creek in the mountains of Virginia--there will be glimpses of Him everywhere.

And if you're lucky enough, and you're a six-year-old boy, and your momma lets you, you might just be able to see His wisdom in Kung Fu Panda: Secrets of the Furious Five as well.