My youngest grandchild, Harry, 3, might be the most rambunctious of the five — although that varies, depending on which day you ask me and what my latest experiences have been.
I keep the grandkids most Thursdays, and often if I’m going to have to ride herd on one, it’ll be Harry. He’s sweet as can be, and very affectionate, but he brims with excess energy and also is fearless — a combustible combination.
He’s the one who’ll chase his 5-year-old sister through the house while screeching like a T. rex on steroids. He’s the one who’ll cross the den by hurdling from one piece of furniture to the next, his feet never touching the floor.
He’s the one who thinks it’s hilarious to wait until the family’s Great Dane has gone sound asleep, sneak up on that snoring, massive beast, then whack him with a sofa pillow. The dog leaps about seven feet straight up in the air, growling and snapping, eyes rolling.
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“Sooner or later he’ll eat you,” I warn Harry. “One gulp and you’ll be gone.”
Occasionally I have to jail Harry in time out to enforce a point.
“What is wrong with you today?” I’ll say. “You’ve gone plumb crazy.”
A few weeks ago, he started preschool. He’s trying to adjust to the routine.
On Thursdays, I pick him up from school on my way to his house to babysit.
As we walked to my car the other day, I said, “So, buddy, how’d it go?”
“OK,” he said.
He thought for a second, then added in apparent astonishment, “I wanted to be crazy — but they wouldn’t let me!”
That night I told my wife, Liz, what Harry had said.
“Gee, that’s all of us, isn’t it?” she said. “There’s a sermon in that.”
And a newspaper column, too, perhaps.
It’s long appeared to me that many humans are born with a death wish.
We’re terrified of death, of course. Yet inexorably we’re drawn toward it as those proverbial moths are drawn to sputtering candles.
How else do you explain the choices we make?
We crave the very things likely to depress, disillusion, maim or kill us, just like Harry wants to wallop a gigantic sleeping dog with a pillow, or just like a teenager will stand in line for two hours to board the tallest, fastest, hair-raisingest rollercoaster she can find.
We fear death, but can’t help tempting it.
Where I live, people all around me are pumping heroin into their veins, and dying from it, in record numbers. The going up surely isn’t worth that final coming down, but folks keep doing it anyway.
Others of us drink too much, eat too much, lie too much, cheat too much, text while roaring down the highways, ignore sound medical advice.
We entangle ourselves in bad romantic relationships and can’t summon the strength to leave, or we do leave, only to jump into another relationship that’s even worse.
We quit good jobs for poor reasons. We cut ourselves off from friends who care about us.
In one manner or another, or in several manners, nearly all of us want to be crazy.
Our best hope is that they won’t let us.
We should hope to have people in our lives who love us enough to look us in the eye and say, “No. You can’t keep doing that. You’re acting nuts. Stop it — now.”
That may be a wise spouse. It may be a teacher. It may be a pastor. It may be a parent. In extreme circumstances, it may even be a cop.
These people can make us mad, but they also make sense. They pull on our reins.
In the Christian faith, we believe the Lord also performs this duty, usually through the internal working of the Holy Spirit.
The spirit whom God has placed inside us quietly appeals to what Lincoln called the better angels of our nature. The spirit counsels us, chides us, enlightens us — if we’re willing to listen. He basically functions as a wise, nagging counselor.
Yes, little Harry spoke wisdom beyond his years.
We want to be crazy. But if we’re blessed — with a no-nonsense spouse or a conscientious teacher or a decent minister or the Holy Spirit — they won’t let us.
Paul Prather is pastor of Bethesda Church near Mount Sterling. You may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.