March 15, 2017

My Favorite Lap

One of my grandpas died when I was twelve. The memories I have of him aren't of conversations we had or things we did together; I only remember strong impressions of who he was. I learned to read his nonverbal cues.

Grandpa was an only child, born in a sod house in eastern Colorado. I've realized in the decades since that he had incredible mechanical intelligence. He wanted to be an architect, but he was needed on the farm. He only attended school through the eighth grade.

My strongest impression of Grandpa was "German." What he thought or felt stayed locked inside. If a question was too personal, he was the type to shut it down abruptly. If an excited conversation in Italian is a 10 on a scale of 1 to 10 for expression, Grandpa was a 2. He held everything close to his chest. A small change in expression or posture meant a lot. A slight twinkle in his eye or a half-smile was equivalent to someone else's belly laugh or bear hug. If he got angry or upset, it was like watching a Ferrari go from 0 to 60 in 2 seconds flat. I have a single memory of him standing up immediately to admonish one of my brothers, and even the memory leaves me feeling frozen, apprehensive.

The man those words describe may seem gruff and unapproachable, but that wasn't my grandpa. Somehow I knew he adored me without ever being told. I knew that he would allow me to do things he wouldn't permit from most other people. I have no memory of him saying he loved me, but I felt completely secure in his love.

One memory I mull over again and again is of Grandpa, sitting in his armchair reading his paper. His face is hidden by the spread pages, and all my preschool eyes can see are his hands and legs. Without hesitation, I go to him, push the paper out of the way, and climb onto his lap. No murmur or protest from Grandpa, but I'd snuggle into his left arm and chest, the paper would come back up, and I'd be on Grandpa's side of the page.

I always remember this when I ponder feeling secure in someone's love.

When I spend time with God, talking to him, listening to him, or sitting in silence with him, that security is what I feel. Other people might think of God as remote or angry or scary or unpredictable. He isn't to me. He's the one I wander close to, go to on impulse, or run to on purpose. Going to God or starting a conversation with him never, ever wastes a second wondering if he's too busy or if he has the time. He always listens immediately. He always takes me as I am. I can't remember a single time he's told me I'm stupid or stubborn or foolish or overly-emotional or immature--even when I am. Chris Rice wrote lyrics for his song, "My Prayer" that express my feeling well:

I feel You smile/ You feel my breath
You listen while I whisper nonsense
Simple exchange: Your will and I'm changed
And now my prayer ends
Thank you, Amen

My chattiness never bothers him. No matter how many times I interrupt myself or him, he still knows exactly what I mean. On my own, I would continually weave across the path of my life, going from ditch to ditch as I corrected and over-corrected; he gives me gentle guard rails. -If I put up guard rails, I promise you I'd make 'em electric fences so I'd KNOW not to make that choice again! He is far gentler with me than I am with myself.

If it feels like he's too busy, he's not. If you think he'll be angry that you interrupted him, he won't be. If you think he doesn't love you... you couldn't be more wrong. Take a deep breath and gather your courage if you need to, but go push aside that paper and climb up into his lap.

It's my favorite place in all the world.

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