My cousin Whitney, two weeks older than I, came to visit when we were about eight years old. We were playing on the front lawn, and for some reason I got the notion in my head that I wanted to be able to run, eyes closed and arms outstretched, as fast as I could. I think I'd been watching Born Free or something, and the idea of running far and fast and free appealed to me. I asked Whitney to watch and make sure I didn't run into anything. She said okay. So off I went, eyes closed, running down the lawn, the wind in my hair...straight into the cotoneasters and the American Redbud tree. Which hurt. A lot.
Rubbing my abrasions, I turned on Whitney. "Why didn't you tell me? I wasn't supposed to run into anything."
Whitney just shrugged and said, "You turned."
At the time, it was a lesson in trust and, frankly, stupidity, but forty years later, I think on this incident with a different perspective. It is our job to make sure our children can run free without crashing into anything. If we see them veer off course, we're supposed to warn them, shout, wave our arms -- whatever it takes to steer them clear of danger. But ultimately, it's up to them if they insist on keeping their eyes closed and smacking into trees. Then all we can do is be there for them, to apply Band-aids and kiss skinned knees.
There have been times in my life when I've been foolish or headstrong, and I have been blessed with family, friends and church leaders who have steered me clear and warned me that I was getting off course. A little correction or nudge is all I've needed to avoid the trees. But they haven't just kept me safe. They have also encouraged me to run to the best of my potential. I just need to remember to do it with my eyes open.