Healthy Soul/Lessons Learned/My Life/Teen Life The Swing by Joel Stepanek A few days ago I was out for a run. You should know that I hate running. I run for the same reason I eat kale. I don’t like it, but I know it is good for me. In order to distract myself from how awful running is I like to run through populated areas where there are things to look at. One of my favorites is an area close to my apartment where there are beautiful houses, parks, and a few lakes. As I passed by the park, I saw a dad pushing his son on the swing. The laughter from the kid was loud – the kind of good, deep laughter that isn’t mean or nervous, the kind that comes from true joy. I smiled at the moment; there was nothing in the world more important to that little kid than being in that swing. And there was nothing more important in that moment to the dad than pushing him. I kept running as the laughter continued behind me. Then I started thinking. About deadlines. About money. About the house I would love to live in. About a friend that I haven’t talked to in a while and I wonder if he is mad at me. About how I’m pretty stressed out. About how much running sucks. Suddenly, a realization hit me: I’m pretty grumpy. I am really worried. I’m overwhelmed by anxiety right now. I kept running and I thought about that kid in the swing. I used to be that kid. What happened? I think that one of the reasons Jesus talked so much about having child-like faith is summed up in that kid in the swing. When was the last time you felt care free? The last time you really just enjoyed life without worry? When was the last time that you focused on the joy you felt in a moment, rather than worrying about when the moment would end? Maybe more importantly – when was the last time you had a time you just allowed yourself to be in the presence of God without worrying about anything else? There is something essential about the connection Jesus teaches us to make with God through prayer. Sometimes, our prayer can be a lament or a list of our worries. Other times, our prayer can be a list of requests of petitions. But there is a prayer, one that we engage in the least, that simply allows ourselves to sit in the love of God as Father. It is the kind of prayer that says, “In this moment, nothing else is more important than connecting with you. Nothing else is more important than being a child laughing and rejoicing in the presence of God the Father.” I kept running and I thought about how un-childlike my prayer had become. I was approaching prayer like it was a business meeting or a listening session for my complaints, rather than an opportunity for love and joy. There was a time in my life that I had that kind of child-like faith… and maybe there was a time in your life when you did, too. The beautiful reality of faith is that we can reclaim that child-like faith. It doesn’t mean becoming “childish”, it simply means that we allow ourselves to be loved by God without worrying about what comes next. It means taking moments to enter into prayer with a God that loves us and says, “Look, I’ve really got this. Those worries? We will get through them together. That anxiety? I will take that on for you. Right now, what I’m interested in is being with you. Connecting with you. Loving you. That is what matters right now.” There is joy in that, and amazing peace. I ran back to the park and sat under a tree. Running sucks, anyway. I looked up at the blue sky as the leaves above me rustled in the wind. “Lord, take my worries and let me just be with you.” The wind blew, there was laugher in the distance, the sun shined through the leaves above me. And I smiled – God smiled, too. Find your swing. Reconnect with your Father. Become child-like and reclaim joy. You deserve that – not because of anything you did, but because of whose you are.