When I was five years old, our house was next door to the family grocery store on the wide main street of Estevan, Saskatchewan. My father often delivered groceries from that store, in his small Model A Ford truck.
One day when he was putting grocery orders into the bed of the truck I asked if I could go with him. He said no. I remember going around to the passenger side of the truck and stealthily lying down on the running board. This was an impulsive decision made with the limited judgment of a five-year-old brain.
Model A trucks were equipped with stiff transverse springs – crosswise to the vehicle like those in a horse-drawn buggy. When my father pulled the truck into the alley, I discovered how rough and full of potholes the alleyway was. The truck rocked slightly in the bumpy lane and when it reached one particularly rough spot at the end of the alley I rolled off onto the ground; the big back wheel of the truck just missed me.
Since at that point my father was turning right to enter the street, I could have suffered a crushed foot. Or a crushed head. I picked myself up and walked back to our yard. I was frightened, but didn’t realize what mortal danger I had been in.
How should I think about that experience now? Had the laws of physics or even blind chance just randomly played in my favor, like dice thrown without thought? Or was I under the divine care of One who had full power over the laws of physics? And had my mother’s prayers factored into my escape?
That is, what is our world really like?
I see the situation as a moment of divine care. That’s a faith statement, I know, but it seems to fit better with reality as the Christian Scriptures present reality, and as I experience it here and now. That strikes me as more real than to think our world is mindless and the fates regulate it without mercy or compassion. That would make our world a madhouse.
What did Jesus mean in his discourse about little children when he said to his disciples, “See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my father in Heaven” (Matthew 18:10).
I hear human accountability in those words. “Never disparage the worth of the little ones,” Jesus was saying. “Take care of them.” But I also hear a note of divine providence. It is a word of assurance about guardian angels who represent children before God.
Whatever we make of my near disaster as a five-year-old, I believe there is a God in heaven who cares for us through the many perils of childhood. For any of us who have survived to adulthood it is certain we have been spared from life-threatening perils even if we weren’t aware of them then or can’t identify them now.
This view of the world prompts me to treat every day as a gift and to live life purposefully as a believer in the Jesus who uttered those loving words instructing the care of children.