“I’m actually having a great day!” Euan seemed almost surprised. My second ‘Granddad Day Out’ took 5 grandchildren to the Pleasure Beach along with Tim and Jen. We had wristbands and 6 hours… Jen was happy to take the older boys on Valhalla – Tim was willing to take the two 4 year olds, Ben and Maayana, to Nickelodeon Land, and as I’d never been on Valhalla, I went on with Aedan (6) Euan (9) Zach (6) and Jen (don’t ask). It said ‘You will get wet; you may get soaked.’ It might has well have said ‘You will get soaked!’ Aedan and I sat together and we were both completely soaked. Jen took a picture of a dripping and saturated Granddad and Aedan as all three boys declared ‘never again!’ – echoed by their Grandfather.
We slopped our way to the others, who had had a lovely time on the log flume, the fairy cabs and Dora the explorer. I think they may have had the best of time of their day. Monster hotdogs or cheeseburgers and the promise of an icecream; but first we had to do the blue flyer (twice). Jen went for a ‘bucket of chips’ and we had our icecream or adult drink, five children sitting happily in the sun. We queued for Wallace & Grommit’s thrill-o-matic, a child-friendly ride – unless, as we discovered, you are terrified of the dark. Four of the children enjoyed themselves immensely; Ben had chosen to ride with Maayana, but in the pitch darkness, Jen could hear a little whimpering – Ben really does not like the dark…
We caught the PB express, a model railway with two stations. Partway round (before dropping off Zach – & therefore Tim – at the second station for a toilet break), we went through a tunnel. Only at the midpoint was it dark, but nonetheless I glanced back at Ben, concerned. As we entered the tunnel, he nestled into Jen for reassurance, but as we could see the light at the end of the tunnel, Ben pulled free from Jen and put an artificial ‘confident’ grin on his face, an ‘I’m not scared of anything’ grin.
We raced to the pirate ships (I lost my go as Zach wanted to travel alone after asking me to ride with him!) then the fairy cabs (second time for Ben & Maayana), Ben ‘driving’ me, after which we paused for shared buckets of chips. While Tim went to enjoy ‘Infusion’ and ‘flying machines’, the rest of us queued for what turned out to be our last ride, ‘Alice in Wonderland’. As we queued, Ben talked excitedly about which cat he was going to ride – until we got to the front and he noticed the cats going into a dark entrance. We left the front of the queue, and waved happily at the rest of our party as they passed us. Five very happy children and largely very well behaved headed home, chattering excitedly. They slept well.
I was struck by Ben in the tunnel. His undeniable need and comfort from Jen (she said it was rather sweet) followed by a staged independence. He reminded me of the way we so often respond to God. When everything seems to be going well, we strike a confident and independent pose, perhaps masking turmoil within. Appearance is everything, and we struggle to keep the illusion going, terrified that those around us will penetrate to the vulnerable and scared inner child. In a sense, we only nestle into God when its dark and no one else can see, or, more likely, when the need is so great that we abandon all pretence and simply take the comfort we need and which was always so freely available.
Jesus declares – in a passage which centres on judgement for unbelief – that those who trust him are always welcome to receive comfort in their fear and weariness, to nestle into God: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (The Bible, Matthew 11.28-30). In a later passage, where he denounces the hypocrisy of a proud and independent group who know nothing of the loving tenderness and grace of God, he laments over their rejection of God’s ever present love: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.” (Matthew 23.37) Let us put away the pretence, take off our artificial grin, acknowledge our frailty, and boldly nestle into the ever present arms of God in Christ, to find solace and strength.
Praying that you may nestle into the arms of God and in Christ Jesus, know comfort in need, love without price and strength to face tomorrow.
Your servant in the Lord Jesus Christ,