by Timothy W. Tron, May, 2022
A petite young boy, barely four years old, stood just within the entrance to the pasture. His tiny frame had easily crawled between the bars of the tube gate that was shut to keep the herd of cattle confined within. The firmament overhead was an azure blue, clear as far as the eye could see. Before him stood stalks of green, as tall as trees. The sun felt warm on his demure frame. He was smaller than most children his age. To know him, one would understand why. He was lucky to be alive.
For two years, at the tender age of one and then again, at two, he had contracted double pneumonia. Each time, he barely survived extended stays in the hospital, camping beneath a clear plastic tent as oxygen was pumped into its confines. Many prayed for and over the child. Most feared that he would succumb to the illness, but God had other plans. Like the countless stalks before him, a multitude of prayers had been lifted up in his name, supporting, strengthening, abiding in one another until they found their mark. He eventually healed, but his body suffered the ravages, growing more slowly than other children his age. So, as the sap began to flow in the trees, he felt a renewed strength start to flow through his veins. There seemed to be something that beckoned him to leave the old farmhouse and to wander out behind the tractor shed. Something beyond those palisades of fencing and outbuildings – an openness that smelled of freedom from the bondage of death.
The white cotton shirt beneath the little overalls wasn’t enough to remove the chill of the breeze that wafted the tops of the grasses that swayed before him. A deep, rich aroma permeated the air – it spoke of earth and nature. Earlier that morning, he heard his grandmother speak of prayers being answered for him and how God was great. She went on to share how millions of prayers were being lifted up for their country, seeing as something called the Vietnam conflict was being fought. He didn’t understand the words “prayer” or “war” or what a “world away” meant. It sounded scary. She saw his countenance drop and quickly comforting saying, “nothing to be bothered with, my son. It’s far, far away.” She explained that prayers were people’s way of speaking to God, “like you and I talking now.” But the word “million” made no sense at all. Like the blades of grass before him, too numerous to count, a million was a number that was beyond his comprehension. It was only an entity unto itself, like a living organism, something through which he could only understand if it was tactile. The boy wandered deeper into the tall grass.
A childlike faith, dread of nothing, guided his path as he made his way through the forest of green. Cows making their way had unknowingly prepared his path. A baby cannot know sin, just as there is no reason to Baptize such. So, it is with fear. The child only felt the hand of the comforter. It wasn’t a stranger to him. He had been with him before – like the long empty days when he was held captive in the hospital bed. There were times when he would look to the foot of his bed and see the shadow of one that watched over him, and those suffocating feelings of abandonment would drift away – a love unseen would flood his soul, and sleep would come once more. He was there now, the comforter, walking, holding his hand, watching over him once more. They continued on. The boy followed wherever the trail of grasses led. Surviving the illness had instilled in him a sense of hope, knowing that with each new day, each fresh breath of life, there was always something to look forward to. The Apostle Paul put it like this, “And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
To understand a faith like this, one must erase all the preconceived notions that cling to us as we traverse through life. It takes an unfettered faith, one that clings to God as a drowning man does to the one trying to save him. As Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” This faith, the belief in something unknown, but yet, it was known, that guided the little child. For each new turn, every new wrinkle of light gave hope, a tantalizing offer of something else to come. For a child, heaven is as believable as the friend that talks to them when no one is there. Anything is possible when you can dispense with what we come to know as the natural realm of reality. Matthew describes Jesus calling the little children unto him, saying, “He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” This faith, this pure belief, guided the little farm boy past the herd of gentle Herefords to the small brook that ran past the farm.
The breeze gently blew the leaves overhead as the little one found his way to the gurgling waters. Before him flowed a small tree-lined creek. Large river birches and pin oaks shaded the oasis below. The bank was worn away where the cows had trod to reach the life-giving sustenance. The little boy sat down on a rock, resting as he wondered about the beasts that soon followed him to the watering hole. He was at home with the herd of cattle as he was with being alone. The animals sensed a purity, a being so gentle, they couldn’t help to wonder. They didn’t speak but gathered, at first hesitantly, realizing the child wasn’t a threat. Then, one by one, they meandered on down to the water and began to drink. Calves followed their mothers, some sniffing at the little boy, their muzzles tickling his neck, causing him to laugh aloud with a cherub-like voice. The sound would cause them to jump, skittering a step away, but continuing on as accepting the tiny human’s presence. He did not know how long they gathered, only that as they departed, he followed like one of the herd. A rumble within his tummy soon reminded him that the grass that the cows were eating wouldn’t suffice, that he needed to return to grandma’s kitchen where the pleasant aroma of something good cooking surely awaited.
Like an old friend, he motioned goodbye to his newfound friends, the cows, and climbed back through the gate’s bars. Somewhere off in the distance, a Redwing chirped as it headed to the pond nearby. A tiny puff of a cloud whisked past as the little boy kicked at a dirt clod in the trail leading back to the house. The dust drifted onward, like his feelings, from one happy sugar cube of thought to the next. His days were filled with what some might call loneliness, but to him, it was just another day in the life he had been given. It was there, alone in those oceans of grass that loneliness and isolation were supplanted by imagination. It would become a voice within that would carry him through all the days of his life. There was nothing for which to compare, and as it was, he was glad to be alive.
Thanks be to God.
 Romans 5:5 KJV
 Matthew 19:14 NIV
 Matthew 18:2-3 NIV