The Airplanes


We just had my precious first grandson for a visit here in Miami. As with many visitors, we ended up taking a run down to “Robert is Here” - a pretty cool touristy place with lots of exotic fruit, local honey, smoothies, a kind of “petting zoo” and more.

Now Leo is three and so his interests can come and go pretty quickly and his tastes are sometimes unpredictable. Seeing the fruit stand was pretty cool. He LOVES fruit. He ran here and there and saw things we pointed out, and was pretty happy with the honey samples, too. We decided it was time to go see the animals so we headed through toward the back end of the property. To get there, we passed through a work area of sorts where fruit is sorted, cut and prepared for the vending area. At the end of the counter, right at 3-year-old eye level - was a toy airplane. It was big enough to take two hands to hold and bright and shiny and new. It wasn’t the kind of thing they would sell there, so I suppose some poor child had left it behind and was maybe even still somewhere in the vicinity. Those details would be unfathomable to this child. He just saw it - and wanted it. You would think in his mind that it was the biggest, most beautiful thing he had ever seen.

We could even imagine he had set his mind on such a toy long ago and finally found what he’d been waiting for all of his little life. So incapable of reason (although we did try), the only thing his daddy could do was scoop him up and take him kicking and screaming in the direction we had been trying to head before the distraction. We stopped to see a really cool toucan - but he could not see it or enjoy it because his little mind was on that airplane. I thought the entire day was ruined and that his life would never be the same without that airplane.

Now, if you’ve been to “Robert is Here” in any recent years, you may already know what’s coming. But he didn’t. We carried on past the animals - and then he saw - the planes! REAL planes. You could climb in them. They were just shells of what used to be real flying machines. You could move levers and buttons and push on pedals. The former little toy plane that he wanted so badly was completely forgotten - because he had found a whole new level of interactive joy. I’ve no doubt he could have stayed there for hours. And he discovered something else - even though he’s not conscious of it yet - he loves mechanical things. How does it move? How does it work? Let’s try each and every button and lever and gear and see what happens.

But then what happened? Those cute little blue eyes spied a bunch of toy cars - the kind you could ride in - when you’re a toddler. He barely fit inside. He ran over and crammed himself in one after another, forgetting for a time the joy of the much more complex planes. He was finally convinced to spend a little time with the animals - and then he remembered how much he loved the planes, and we revisited the joy. And then - tractors! He had to sit on each one - and try all the levers and gears.

It was very hard to convince him to go back to the car. But the toy airplane that meant so much to him at first was never mentioned again. His father’s insistence in tearing him away from his “toy joy” had opened his eyes to such great things. And were they so great? Well, not to diminish “Robert” and his lovely place, but there is even more out there - there are real planes and real tractors that really fly and run and work. He just saw a glimpse - a shell of the real thing. Will we follow up this story one day with tales of a boy who became a pilot? I have no idea.

I do know this, however. I see myself all over this little story. I have again been thinking lately about how often we have our sights set on something that is “good.” We want it. We ask for it. We pray for it. We claim it. And God says, “no.” And we wonder what we did wrong. It wasn’t a bad desire. It wasn’t evil. “Why does God always punish me by not giving me what I desire?” Maybe, just maybe - we have to get pulled away from something “good” to see something “better.” And then - is “better” all there is? Maybe - or maybe not. Do we find something better only to be pulled away by some toy we’ve outgrown? Do we appreciate the gifts that may have awakened in the discovery process? Will the experience teach us to accept a “no” and appreciate more?

What toy airplanes might be in our lives that keep us from moving forward, or have us looking backward at what we thought we missed? Looking forward to a new year and (gulp) all that the loving, heavenly Father may want to show us!

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