I can still see him: a little boy, barely over one year old, sitting on the lawn in his plaid green overalls surrounded by little plastic Easter eggs, with a smear of chocolate across his cheeks. He had just finished quite a successful Easter egg hunt, resulting in a haul of more than a dozen plastic eggs. Of course, he was too young to find the eggs himself, so his dad took him by the hand and showed him each egg in turn. Together they collected the dozen eggs that lay sprawled across the lawn at the little boy’s feet.
This little boy has grown a lot since that day, joined now by two other little boys, who collectively love nothing more than the fierce competition of hunting for eggs.
Last year, due to the pandemic, we had four or five Easter egg hunts through our house. I actually lost track of how many times I filled those plastic eggs with chocolate (the same chocolate each time—shh…don’t tell!) and hid them. At the beginning of each hunt, there was a flurry of excitement as the three boys competed for who could grab the most eggs fastest. But as the competition wound down with just a few eggs left, something beautiful happened. It was then that I noticed their dad back at work, subtly pointing out eggs here and there until all the eggs were found and distributed equally among his sons.
Several weeks ago, I organized an Easter egg hunt for fathers and teenage sons on a father/son Lenten retreat. The hunt was a little unconventional—and not only because it was held during Lent. Instead of chocolate, inside each egg was a series of questions for fathers and sons to answer. As they found each egg hidden around the school, the fathers and sons were called to answer questions about life, growing up, faith, and more. The egg hunt’s purpose was to start a conversation that hopefully developed or renewed relationships.
As I watched the fathers and sons walk around the school together that day, I wondered how many fathers were reminded of how they once helped their young sons hunt for eggs hidden among the tall grass and behind the wide trunks of trees. I wondered how many sons remembered the subtle points and gestures from dad as they looked for the brightly colored eggs. I hoped that their conversations now would be the beginning of a strong friendship between them later in life.
Thinking about the journey from the one-year-old on the lawn to the teenager walking alongside his dad, I started to wonder if this is how our relationship with God develops over time. At first, when we are young and incapable of finding out about life all by ourselves, God takes our hands and guides us from moment to moment. Then, as we grow, God gives us space to try and see what we can discover on our own. But God never leaves us completely alone, as just when we start to give up or get frustrated, God subtly points towards the answers we seek. Then, one day, when we are grown enough to think we have it all figured out, it is then that God becomes like a friend whom we can take on a walk and talk with about life and faith and everything in between.
That’s how I imagine my relationship with God, changing and growing as I do. It’s how I hope God works with my sons and the boys I teach as well: gently leading them to the treasure they seek, one egg at a time.