Their laughter overpowered my ear-buds, as I ran on the park’s walking/ bike path.  I’m glad I run slow- it gave me plenty of time to eavesdrop on a beautiful scene,  I was completely drawn into their moment. 

I saw a man of average build and middle age, a red haired teenaged boy just passing through the gangly stage and a tall, thin teenaged girl, wearing full pads and helmet.  They were that much taller- due to their rollerbladed feet.   The three of them were laughing, hysterically.

The man could easily be identified as the father.  His bellowing laugh and out-stretched arms enveloped the girl as she stumble-rolled and scooted towards him.  He cooed over her falls and caught her by the elbow when the falls looked the most treacherous.  His words bouyed her back up to try again.  The teenaged boy rolled next to them-yelling “You got  it! You rock!  Keep going!”  the whole way.  

At one point- the girl fell down, hard. I heard her say “I can’t” in a tear -filled, childlike voice.   The boy threw himself down on the path, next to her.  She laughed. “Yeah, you can, see?  Everybody falls.”  Together, they struggled back to their feet.

As I pounded my way closer, I realized this was a very special family.

The girl didn’t have the typical teenaged air about her.  At first I thought she had just forgotten- teenagers do that sometimes- they forget to be all angst and attitude and then get embarrassed when they are caught.   As I got closer- I could tell, she hadn’t forgotten- she had simply never been there, she was developmentally challenged.

The love and encouragement they shared was palpable, something almost holy swirled around them, it was their love for each other.  As I passed around them, I had to join in to encourage her.  “You’re doing great!”  I puffed as I passed.  “You are too!”  She yelled back in response. 

Suddenly- My eyes filled with tears.  I kept running. 

“Was I, doing great?”  I doubted it.  I am often filled with self doubt and criticism.    I joke that as a follower of Jesus- I tend to be a little slow. If there were a remedial level class for Christianity, I’d be in it and would most likely,  flunk.   I get frustrated by my hypocrisy, struggles and doubts.  I feel like I’m in Jr High algebra class all over again.. there are things, I just don’t get.

I don’t get how a loving God can allow so much pain and hurt in the world.  I don’t get how I can love my enemy.  I don’t get how I can keep forgiving when I’m tired and angry.  I don’t get how to let God be in control when I never was in control in the first place.

To be honest- my sin, my doubt, my stumbling and falling, make me wonder sometimes how God can tolerate me.  As I ran past that special family.. and heard their encouraging words, and felt their love, I knew the truth. 

I am God’s developmentally delayed daughter. 

I had it all wrong.  I thought God must be like me:  critical, judgemental, easy to become frustrated.  He is not.  He is like that loving father and brother at the park.  He knows me and loves me anyways.  He shouts praise and encouragement, as I stumble and learn.  He stretches out His loving arms and envelops my doubt and shame.   He catches me, when I fall.  He heals the wounds and scraped knees of my life.  He sits down beside me, when I cry.   He does the same for you. 

Psalm 103