The ground was covered with a cold white blanket where the fresh snow had fallen under the moon and stars. Bobby got up early. He loved the snow; but sadly that day was a school day despite the winter conditions. Mama wrapped him up snug and tight in a hat, coat, mittens and scarf and sent him out the door. The school yard was three houses up the street and through a wood too small to hold a house but big enough for a stream to run through.
Bobby decided to have some fun on his way to school. He made great footprints in the snow, jumping from foot to foot and leaving a wide space between, he imagined it was like the footprints of a grown-up or maybe a giant. On the last footprint, he slipped and fell flat in the snow and all of his clothes got covered with white and wet. He decided then, that since he was already wet he might as well make some angels. Lying flat on his back, he moved his arms up and down and his legs back and forth until wings appeared in the snow. When he was satisfied with his great work, he moved on to a new spot. He did not want to be late for school, but this was fun.
By the time Bobby reached the little wood there was a regular path of angels. The snow began to fall lightly as Bobby decided to build a snowman to guard the angel way. The bottom snowball was easy to make and it rolled right to where he wanted it. The middle snowball was harder, taking him farther from the snowman, and it was heavy. The top snowball was smaller and lighter, but making it took him into the woods. He noticed it was warm in that little shelter, and hardly snowing at all. He put the head on the snowman and smoothed his creation as well as he could; and then he found some pebbles by the little stream which he used for eyes, nose and mouth.
He went back to the stream in the woods. It was only finger deep, even in the summer, and a giant step across at the widest part. Bobby noticed where the wind had cleared a small section, but there, instead of running water, he found ice. His rubber boot crashed on the ice and made a delicious sound. Crunch, crunch, Crunch! He marched up and down the stream like an army of soldiers until there was nothing left of the stream but puddles of frigid water.
This army needs a fort, Bobby decided, and he set about building one, rolling great snowballs up to the water’s edge. There were seven for the base and six on top, and finally five on the very top. He carefully shaped them from round balls into blocks, and stood back to examine his work. It was not right. Instead of a fort, he needed a castle. Three more blocks spaced on the top gave the appearance of a real castle, and with that he could set about making ammunition.
Bobby could count to twenty but that hardly seemed enough, so he made another twenty and then he used them against the invisible army of the enemy. He threw his snowballs against the trees and against certain bushes where the enemy was hiding. With the last snowball, Bobby won the war. Everyone cheered and celebrated the winner.
Suddenly, Bobby stopped and listened. He heard someone calling. It sounded like a man calling for Robert; but Mama told him to stay away from strangers so he hid behind the castle wall. It seemed like a long time, but it was really only a few minutes before the man went away; and Bobby thought he had better go, too. He did not want to be late for school.
There was a hill to climb to get out of the woods and on to the school yard. Near the top, Bobby’s foot slipped on a piece of cardboard someone left by the woods. He tumbled and slid back down the path that ran between the trees, and came to a stop near the stream. Someone else might have been frightened, but Bobby decided it was fun. He raced to the top and pulled the cardboard free of the snow. It was a carton top and it was just big enough to sit on.
Bobby used the carton top like a sled and raced down the hill, this time all the way to the stream. Once was not enough. There were several trips, running to the top and sliding to the bottom before the cardboard finally fell apart. On the last slide, the cardboard stopped short on a grassy spot that had rubbed clean of snow. Bobby fell forward and his face and hands went into the ice cold water of the stream. He shivered, but he knew he could warm up as soon as he got to the school. He ran across the school yard.
When he reached the school room door and stepped inside, he was surprised by what he saw. The teacher gave him a mean look, the children stared, some open mouthed, and his mother was there. She had been called. She raced over and scooped Bobby up before he could even take off his mittens. Everyone asked him where he had been. He was just playing. He did not know what else to say. Then he found out it was nearly noon and he was not only late for school, he was in big trouble.
Mama took him home, dressed him in warm pajamas and put him in bed. She made him some hot soup so he would not catch cold, but she was angry with him, and that made Bobby afraid of what his Daddy might do. He spent all afternoon in his room, in his bed, unable to nap for fear. His father told him to go to school. It was what he expected, but Bobby did what Bobby wanted instead and he upset everyone and made everyone worry; and now he was in trouble.
When his father’s car pulled into the driveway, Bobby nearly started to cry. He heard the kitchen door, and shortly, Mama came and took him by the hand. She led him to the living room where Daddy was waiting in his high back chair. The terrible stern look on his face made Bobby draw back.
“Come here, son.” Bobby’s father said, and as Mama pushed him gently, a reluctant Bobby inched forward. “First things first. Come here for the most important lesson.” When Bobby was close enough, his father reached out and drew the child up into his lap. And then Bobby’s father spoke.
“The first thing you need to know is I love you.” He kissed Bobby and hugged him, snug and tender, making him feel warm. Bobby put his arms around his father’s neck and returned the hug; and then he did cry, at last, but he was not unhappy. He knew he would be punished for making everyone upset and worry, and he knew he would have to do a better job of going to school; but he also knew that as long as his Daddy and Mama loved him, everything would be all right.
All of us are tempted from time to time to follow what we want rather than what God asks of us; but as the Apostle Paul reminds us, “Nothing can separate us from the Love of God.” It is sometimes important to remember that first and most important lesson.