Keith was always a hands-on Dad, more hands on than the boys wanted in some cases, but also in the fun times. He played with them from the time they were born, carefully moderating his strength when they were small, but never moderating the little boy inside that never quite left him. One of my favorite pictures came when he knocked on the door one rainy day, and there the three of them stood, streaked with mud, having played in the soft warm rain throwing mud balls until you could only tell which was which by their relative size.
So now it was four year old Silas’s turn, his baptism by mud, so to speak, as Keith filled up the low spot in front of the sour orange and the herb bed, dammed by a berm so the water would back up and have time to soak into the ground before rushing on down the hill to the run just off the east side of the property. As soon as the spot was a couple inches deep, Keith called him in to splash around. Even that took awhile, but finally Silas waded in and started jumping up and down, squealing with delight as the water splashed up around him, and especially when it splashed on Granddad.
Then came the magic moment. Keith reached down into the black mud, scratched up a handful, and flung it carefully onto Silas’s back. Talk about indignant! He scrambled up the slope to the carport where I sat in the breeze of a fan, drinking iced tea and watching the fun. “Granddad threw mud on me,” he complained as he spun in a circle trying to see the damage behind him.
“So throw some on him!” I said encouragingly.
He was aghast. “But it’s dirty,” he argued.
“That’s the fun,” I told him, and he slowly walked back to the puddle, glancing over his shoulder at me with a skeptical look.
Granddad met him with another handful of mud, this time on the chest. “Arghh!” he protested and scrambled away, but this time not to me. I was obviously not on his side in this one.
“Here,” Keith said, and stood, chest bare and arms out wide. “Throw some on me.”
Once again, Silas yelled, “No,” but it wasn’t long till he finally picked up a handful of mud on his own. Keith stood there with a grin, waiting as Silas walked up to him. But the little guy couldn’t stand it. Just as he got within a four-year-old’s throwing range, he turned and threw the mud into the puddle instead. Immediately, Keith picked up a handful and threw it on him. Silas ran around in circles, but never left the area this time. In a flash he had another fistful, but once again threw it in the puddle.
Finally, Keith sat down in the mud. “See? I’m already muddy now. It’s okay to throw it on me.”
It still took another five minutes, but finally Silas got into the spirit of the thing and threw a generous handful at Keith. I am not sure how much reached skin, but he was as thrilled as if he had dumped a bucketful on him.
For the next thirty minutes the mud was flying. They both wound up with mud caked on their shorts, dripping from clumps on their shoulders, bellies, backs, and even their heads. I doubt Silas had ever been that dirty in his entire life, and he thoroughly enjoyed it.
I could do a lot with this one. I could talk about hands-on fathering. I could talk about shucking your dignity so you can play with your child, about shedding that authoritative image so he will know you love him enough not just to correct him, but to enjoy being with him--on his level, not yours. That’s easy, so I will let you take care of that one.
How about this? Did you notice how hard it was for Silas to actually start throwing the mud? Even though he was assured it was all right, even though he was encouraged to have fun that normally was not allowed, it still took a long time for him to give in, but give in he did. Why do we think we can hold up against far more powerful forces than that when we place our souls in harm’s way?
The world will tell you it’s all right. The world will tell you it’s fun. The world will say, “Look at me. See? I’m doing just fine, and so will you.” If you think you won’t give in, you probably have an inflated opinion of your spiritual strength. The truly strong person would have never been there to begin with.
So take it from a little boy who had the time of his life in a mud fight. You will give in too, only your fight will end up with a dirt that can’t be washed away with a hose, and you may enjoy it too much to ever leave the mud puddle behind.
You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen, 2 Peter 3:17-18.