They call themselves the “Creek Gang.” It is a magical Huckleberry Finn Little House hybrid of a daily adventure that happens in the creek bed behind our home. Each day, the children of our cul-de-sac run right through the front door, grab a snack and run right through the backdoor. On Saturdays, we don’t see them for hours except an occasional random request for twine or a certain size board.
For months they have been creating clubs and forts and a life of their own. It began in the front of our home … in the tops of the trees. It looked a little like the children’s book, “Caps for Sale” when you drove up … monkeys hanging from every branch. The clubs divided into boys and girls and moved to either side of the house. Somewhere in the midst of the long afternoon days, the gang moved to the creek bed.
The girls fort morphed into quite a utopia. It was really quite amazing. Right along the bank of the dry creek they had a “world” with all they needed. With a few bricks and sticks they made shelves to hold all of their thingamajigs. Tables and beds were created and even decorated with fresh berries and twigs. It was home to them. It is was their very own world and to them it was perfect. The burdens of homework, chores and balancing friendships couldn’t reach them here. It was their Garden of Easy.
They never needed our help or our advice. They simply knew how to do it all on their own. Roles and rules were created in unison by the creek gang. As parents, we did ask they remember the standard rules of share, be kind, clean up. And then added one more: Don’t make the dog bark.
I suppose when you are lost in your utopia of play and enjoying life completely, you don’t always hear the dog barking. It becomes the background noise. With such a playful kind dog, there was never a fear or worry that the dog was barking. He was there and he was fine. But he was barking. Therefore, the creek gang had no choice but to relocate their “world.”
For the girls, the change ahead seemed impossible. They cried themselves to sleep. For the mom, I realized it is a good, good lesson. It is part of life and it is up to me to gracefully cheer them through this move down the creek. It must seem silly. It’s just a fort, but in the huddles of our homes that evening was huge heart break caused by neglecting one simple ask. Don’t make the dog bark.
As we slept, God continued to unfold His plans. He started by bringing a rain that filled the creek and washed everything that had been created. As we awoke, smiles didn’t come easily as the thought of afternoon playtime was going to be a little more work and a lot more disappointment than usual. As the kids went to school, I headed to the creek. I thought I would just clear some areas and move their belongings. But God thought He would clear my head and move my heart.
I started clearing out a new area for the kids. It was full of debris and rocks and sticks and briars. So many briars. I cut and clipped and removed piles and piles of briars. My hands were bleeding and stinging from the work. And I knew that even if I removed them, the root was still there. The briars would come back. It would eventually become a wonderful fort by the creek, but the thorns would remain.
As I moved into the original fort, my heart was sad. It was indeed a darling little world they had created. I hated for them to leave it, but still I began moving their things to the new area. It was what needed to happen. It was without a doubt the right thing to do. So, back and forth, up and down the creek bed I tromped through mud, tripped on rocks, ripped my shirt and carried each and every stick, rock, treasure and part of them down the creek.
The pricks from the briars, the dirt and the sweat, the heavy loads, the sadness of sin had everything in me come to a complete stop. I stopped in my tracks and soaked in the very holy moment I was standing in. And I was overwhelmed with the most foundational thing I have ever heard. The Gospel. The sweet and simple gospel that I take for granted every single day.
Just as the dog barked.
Just as Adam and Eve ate of the Tree.
Just as I chose a stinky attitude about (oh, just about) a thousand things.
There was sin.
There was a point where an ask was made and we just didn’t do it.
Just as Adam and Eve were ashamed and grieved for what they did, so do we.
I do not like the way I feel after I am short with Robert, I am sad for how I treat him.
The girls were sad they didn’t pay attention to the dog and the one rule.
We grieve deeply that we let the perfect moment or ideal world slip through our fingers.
As I carried item by item down the creek bed, I could not help but think about how Jesus carried sin by sin to the cross.
I was in pain. I was bleeding. I was dirty. It was not easy maneuvering through the water and rocks.
But I did not want my daughter to have to do it. So, I did.
And so did Jesus.
On such a grander and deeper and precious level, He didn’t want me to carry my burdens so He did.
This afternoon, I will sit down with the girls. I will give them instructions. They will be shown the new boundaries of where they can create a new wonderful place. I will remind them that even though the thorns have been removed … they can return, so be careful. I will give them a basket filled with water and work gloves and cookies … tools for their new endeavor. And I will cheer them on and joyfully watch them create new and wonderful things because that is what they are created to do. They have hard work ahead of them. Work that they can enjoy and see become fruitful if they keep their hearts toward the One that created them.
I imagine that God had some instructions and His own version of a basket of tools that He handed to Adam and Eve as they began their new adventure in a not so perfect world. He knew they too had hard work ahead.
He hands us instructions and encouragement every day. Instructions and promises from His Word. My basket filled with the people in my life, His abundant peace and love and hope for the work I have outside of the “garden of easy.”
And when I listen to Him, He helps me with the thorns and reminds me what I need to do to live an abundant life.
“I have come so that you might have life abundantly.” John 10:10