A parable is a story which points beyond itself. It is a story that holds a truth which it can only reveal to the curious. It may be fiction or fact. This parable is true; apart from the names of the participants.
I was walking with a friend in some woods near his home. We were both young fathers. “Let me show you where I learnt a sharp lesson” said my friend suddenly.He took me to a track deep among the trees. Its sides rose steeply either side of us.
“This used to be a favourite spot for me and Annie. We used to have a game we both enjoyed. She would run up to the top of the bank, wait until I was below and then launch herself into my arms. She would do it without any hesitation. ‘Catch me daddy’ and without a doubt that I couldn’t, she jumped into the air. I always caught her; until last time”.
He then went to explain that a month before all the family were in the woods; they came to same spot, Annie prepared to do usual thing but on that time occasion she stopped and looked at the drop and asked her father “Daddy, you will catch me won’t you?”My friend stopped and looked at me, “She’s just four; what’s changed? Ever since she could run she would just leap into the air and I would catch her; there was never a shadow of doubt in her mind. What’s happened”?
When I tell that story and ask my friend’s question people come up with variations on two explanations:
“She learnt to be suspicious”.
“She learnt to be cautious”.
Rarely does anyone feel for her father. For them it’s a basic lesson of life. Trusting someone is important but it is not easy. Trust has to be re-learnt. Children may start with the gift of trust yet for whatever reason we lose it as we begin to grow up.We live in risk-aware and risk-adverse times. The worst-case scenario often dictates whether or not we follow a certain course of action. We live in a culture of hyper-caution.
In the New Testament book Hebrews, the author declares:
The fundamental fact of existence is that trust in God, a faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living.
He backs up his assertion with references to some of the people in the bible who exemplify such trust.A detailed reading of some of their stories reveals they often would come to a time when all that they had left was the Annie Question: being asked this time not of a human but of their God: you will catch me, won’t you?
It is the question born of living on the edge of common sense and reason. It is a creation of fear.Fear is the opponent of trust. It is both a deep human need and a warning. Without the capacity to fear we can become brash, dangerous and unable to learn. Fear needs to be challenged and shaped by positive pathways of understanding and hope.
The bible often exhorts us to ‘fear not’. We then must ask ‘how?’ and learn how to jump with trust.
Annie never did the jump again and does not remember the incident.