The Joy of Jumping Beans

A few weeks ago, I went to a conference, leaving my three boys home with my husband. Among his last words to me as I climbed out of our mini-van were, “Whatever you do, please don’t spend money on a bunch of crap for the kids on the way home.” My husband knows my tendencies well.

While I had been relishing this trip in my mind for weeks (in my world, an entire solo flight is equivalent to a tropical cruise), I found myself drying up tears for most of the first flight. In less than two hours, I had already purchased airport prizes for my children. After all, my husband had not clearly stated I should not buy them useless gifts on the way there, he had specifically said not to buy them useless things on the way home.”

And that is how five annoying little jumping beans entered my life. They were the cheapest thing in the store and “beanda” is one of the few words Phinny says, so they seemed like the perfect gift to me. After being shoved in my luggage for days, they were welcomed with fanfare by the boys upon my return. After their initial amazement, the boys quickly lost interest in the poor little guys.  Yet two weeks later, they continue to capture my attention.

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There are approximately two hours of near silence in our home, while Phin naps and the boys are at school. I crave these hours of solitude and stillness, often using them to write, pray, and read. Lately, however, five little jumping beans in a little plastic box have been tapping their way into my peace.

At first I am annoyed when I hear them flipping and clicking and running into the four walls of their box. How dare they invade my plans and peace? Quickly, however, I find myself chuckling. They are jumping beans, after all. What did I expect? Did I think they would just sit still? Wouldn’t that make them just like every other bean in the world? I didn’t want pinto beans. I wanted jumping beans.

These silly little beans have been a constant reminder to me that I want my children to be children. I know that sounds terribly obvious.  But I forget. A lot. Often I find myself inadvertently more concerned with them being convenient rather than with them being children.

Little children, specifically little boys, have energy and vitality surging through them, just like my jumping beans. That’s what makes them so unique, so alive, so vibrant. This life ricocheting off the inner walls of their hearts sometimes causes them to ricochet off our walls. But, in my opinion, this is one of the reasons why God has such a particular heart for children.

It doesn’t matter how much we have jumped rope on the trampoline or how many matches of one-on-one soccer or HORSE we have played in the afternoon. The endless energy in my boys continues to play pinball within them, causing them to flip and flop like my jumping beans. They never grow tired of the same things. They always want to “Do it again,” which wears me out.

G. K. Chesterton captures this common connection between children and God which set them apart from adults.

“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again,” and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again,’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again,’ to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we are.” 

Our God is Creator and Maintainer which means He constantly exerts a steady stream of energy to sustain the universe. He surges with life, with movement, with vitality. He is not flat or convenient. He is alive, which is part of what makes it impossible to fully understand Him and pin Him down into formulas and flow-charts.

In that regard, our children are more like Him than we realize. They are full of hope and curiosity and ideas and excitement. They dream up adventures without having to “brainstorm.” They radiate life.  They are jumping beans, as well they should be.  I don’t want to turn them into pinto beans; the world has entirely too many of those, anyhow.

At times, convenience, efficiency and my over-desire for a perfectly predictable existence tend to make me wish I had pinto beans. But God gave me jumping beans, and jumping beans teach me joy.

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