Not much lasts forever.

Many new parents keep the ink and skin prints of their infant child’s hands and feet. Often, in some craft project in school or scouts or Sunday school, hands are captured in plaster, with “happy mother’s day” scratched above in a font named “indecipherable.”

I understand. We probably have one or the other around, too.

r and sBut sometimes the best traces of the interaction of parent and child are the ones that happen on the way somewhere.

I was following Rob and S__ across a strew of boulders on the coast of Maine. The temperature was in the forties, comfortable enough for climbing, cold enough to keep the weekend’s snow around until Tuesday.

S__ is newly five, with energy and confidence and inquisitiveness. And her desire was guiding our path.

As they climbed and stepped carefully, Rob was guiding, suggesting, listening, catching.  He was teaching in the way Moses tells the people to make the Law part of daily life. His words guided without condemning (“Let’s not go near that edge until I see what’s over it”, provided boundaries (“Let’s take this way”), called attention to the wonder of the boulders frosted with marshmallow and the chipmunks scolding us away.

He was catching her by the hand in the way the psalmist speaks of God catching us in rocky places. Not keeping her from the gaps or the snow. Understanding that sometimes she might need both hands and feet to keep her balance. But always completely present and aware of her well-being.

She was trusting that in his presence was great freedom. She could live and move and be five.

The snow is gone. The handprint is gone. What’s left is a deeper relationship through rocky paths between a father and daughter. And my desire to follow God like that.

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