The Secret Life (Lessons) of a 4 Year Old…

Last week I watched a very short, totally inspiring video of a 7 year old girl from Birmingham proudly showing off her new prosthetic leg to her class. The children’s response to this new prosthetic on their friend is beautiful and heart-warming all at once. I’ve had a similar experience with my daughter, though not as extreme. Niamh, our 4 year old, was born with an issue with her left leg, postero-medial bowing of her tibia and fibula, which has resulted in a current leg length discrepancy of about 4cm. Interestingly, we wondered how she was going to be able walk and run, but as we struggle to keep up with her, I guess she’s shown us to never underestimate the resilience of children. About a month ago, Niamh got her first pair of shoes with a shoe lift in them. Lauren and I worried, like good adults do, about if she’d be able to manage them, but actually more so, how she’d cope in school and what the others would say. Of course, on her first week of wearing them to school, she was running around showing off her new “high heels”…

The point is, as adults, life is much more complex than it is for children, but I think we often don’t help it. I’m sure the mum of the girl with the prosthetic, and us, as Niamh’s parents, worry about judgement and the challenges of the situation, the children owned their uniqueness, took control of their differences and celebrated and showed it off… What a challenge, the difference between parents and child was not situation, but mind set.

Niamh, at age 4, seems to spend her days at the moment getting bumps, bruises and cuts as she explores all around her. I find myself celebrating these scrapes with her, telling her that you only get these bumps and bruises through fun and adventure, not sitting on the sofa. They are par for the course of an adventurous life. Which is so true, and Niamh loves to tell me of her bumps and bruises that come with the great big adventures of a 4 year old.

I was at our church men’s ministry even last week and the hypocrisy of my words came flooding to mind. We were challenged to talk about what we were holding back, what barriers we wanted to overcome in our lives. I spoke about wanting a life full of adventure, whatever that looks like, that I don’t want to be defined by social norms that says your 30s are just about advancing your career, building you family and your home. Don’t get me wrong, these things are GREAT, to be celebrated, but there has got to be more!

And then I thought, that a genuine concern of mine is being open about falling short, I’m not at all good at opening up about failings, about the bumps and bruises I get as I go through life… Here I am, on one hand celebrating the bruises and cuts from the adventures my 4 year old is brave enough to take and on the other being stifled by my own unwillingness to take risk in case I fail. Jesus, in John 10, calls us to not let our lives be stolen from us, and living a life with fear of failure, is a life being stolen.

Secondly, I shared this with a bunch of guys in church, and their response was straight out of Hebrews 10, I was stirred, and encouraged to greater love and good works — to chase after what was in my heart. If you’ve got a dream, a passion within you, a desire of something you want to achieve or do, don’t let your life be stolen… Embrace that passion, that calling within you, let loose the inner child and embrace the bumps and bruises as sign you are living the adventure, not the confined life.

Finally, when Joshua and the Israelites entered the Promised Land, they didn’t walk into new homes and lush lands, they encountered Jericho, a fortress to be battled… Today, as you continue your adventure, know that the Promised Land may not come easily, but it is totally worth the battle!