“Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.”
― Mother Teresa
One day this past week, as a part of my work and ministry here in Guatemala, I joined another volunteer and took a bunch of the kids to the nearby park. We asked the kids to partner up with a ‘buddy’ and walk in a line. We walked about a quarter mile, and then released the kids to play. The kids all tore off to the slides, the swings, the tire bridge, and around the park.
As I looked around me and observed these precious children, I found myself thinking from God’s perspective. Maybe His idea in creation was to provide His children with a big playground to enjoy. Maybe He wants to look upon the smiles of His children, as they enjoy His great creation.
While I was enjoying this thought process some of the girls started throwing rocks at each other, over in the swing and slide area. It was time to step into work mode, and establish some limits. I told the girls that the stones were in their specific area for a reason, and were not meant to be thrown at people. As little children often do, the girls just continued throwing the stones and looked at me defiantly. I smiled at them and explained that there would be discipline for not obeying.
I returned to my previous thought process, and realized that God has also set some limits for us on how to behave in this park (Earth) that He has given us. God warned us of consequences and curses that will come to pass if we are disobedient, and of blessings that will come forth as we obey and honor the way He has set this ‘park’ up to run well.
One of the girls, who has a very strong will, continued to disobey me until I needed to place her in a time out. Though she cried and it hurt my heart to hear, I knew that I needed to be true to my word about consequences for disobedience. I believe this is true too about how God functions in His justice toward us. He is not all grace or lovey-dovey. He maintains the boundaries and limits that He has set for us, and is true to His word about consequences for disobedience. These potential consequences can be drastically more costly than those for these children on the playground. But just like the little girl wanted to push limits and boundaries without realizing the full consequence of her disobedience, I think we as humans often push the limits and boundaries with God; expecting that we won’t encounter the consequences.
My work continued, as I spent time push some of the children on the tire swings. The children were loving the tire swings, until one little boy slipped off and hit his head on the ground. He started crying and I gently embraced him, then pulled away a moment, looked into his eyes, and gave him a reassuring smile. Almost immediately he stopped crying and gave me a smile back. He then asked to swing again!
Then I spent some times with the kids on the swings and slides. There is so much power in making eye contact and giving a smile. It is reassuring to them and gives them greater confidence (Just look at the pictures, where I am making eye contact with them and they are looking directly back at me and smiling confidently.). Those who were afraid to go down the slide, once seeing my reassuring smile and presence, would face their fear and go down, trusting that I would be there to catch them. I believe God is looking upon His children with a reassuring smile (when we are ‘playing’ in the ‘park’ according to His rules) to empower us to face our fears and do the things He calls us to! All we really need to do is look to Him, seek His face, see His smile, and then we become reassured and confident as we face fears of life!
It came time for us to make our way back to the home with the children. On the way we played “Green Light, Yellow Light, Red Light!” with the kids. While its a fun game, it was also an exercise of obedience and limits. The kids were all full of smiles though, and it was a good way to finish up our time.
As we were ending our time together, two little kids came up to me with big smiles and big hugs… The boy who had fallen and hit his head and the girl who was being defiant and disobedient both came to me to snuggle up to me and thank me for taking them to the park. While their words didn’t specifically say so, I believe that because I smile at the kids and interact with them in love, even when I need to discipline or tend to the wounded, these kids know that they are loved! I truly believe that one of the most powerful ways I can work as a missionary and servant of the Lord here is to bear smiles, hugs, and the love of Jesus to these kids! Playing in a park with them all is hard work, though its fun work. But when they come to me, smile big, and thank and hug me, I know I am doing the right work! May my smile shine the love of Jesus more and more!!