As my sweet little toddler is continuing to grow up and gain more and more independence, she and I got to experience a mild panic over being "lost" this week. She has discovered the fun that can be had hiding in racks of clothing and thereby officially ushering in the "I might as well be shopping blind since I can't take my eyes off her" stage of toddler-hood. During what was supposed to be a quick trip to Target, I must have said phrases like "sweetie, don't get too far away from me" and "stay where I can see you" more times than I previously thought possible. She, so innocent and naive to the dangers of the world, wanted to play hide and seek behind the dresses. Completely understandable from her point of view. She lives in such a safe environment, how could she possibly understand the brief moments of sheer panic caused when suddenly a Mom can't find her baby? I distinctly remember doing the same thing when I was little (and getting in trouble for the panic it occasionally caused in my own mother).
As I was thinking, laughing, and sighing to myself about this new stage of independence and pondering over the best ways to help her constructively grow into this next level of being "all grown up" and so independent, it dawned on me… isn't this the same game we continue to play with our Heavenly Father throughout our lifetime? Don't we, too often, take our eyes off Him and wander away just a little to far and wake up in a moment of panic because we feel lost? We wander a little too far away from His plans and suddenly our lives start spiraling out of control. Don't we find ourselves barely keeping our heads above water, if we're lucky, in a sea of stress and worry? All the while, our Heavenly Father is sighing and saying "Child, stay where you can see me. Don't get too far away." The ability to feel lost is a gift. It's a reminder that we do have free will; we have a choice to follow the plans that God has for us; we have the "right" to be as independent as we want to be… but when we exert our independence a little too much and find ourselves in those completely panicked moments, it's also a beautiful reminder to come back to Him.
In a lesson not so different from the one my little independent toddler is learning, we need the reminder that feeling lost is a realization of some previously unknown or forgotten dangers of this world. And just like our precious little ones, when we choose to play close to our Father and keep our eyes where we can see Him, we stay safe and can thoroughly enjoy being appropriately independent.