It was a beautiful spring day, sunny but with a hint of coolness in the air. A day you needed a jacket, but not desperately.

My son, Aaron, and I decided to walk to the library, about four blocks from our house. After a bitterly cold winter, it was a relief to be able to walk instead of drive.

We strolled down the sidewalk, my son proudly marching along carrying the books we were returning in his backpack.

As we walked, Aaron slipped his hand into mine. A comfortable, familiar gesture, but it touched my heart this spring day. I was suddenly aware of how he’s growing, how big his hand feels (even though it is still much smaller than mine).

I remembered how, when he was learning to walk, his hand gripped mine in a different way: tightly, pulling to steady himself.

And then when he had mastered walking and learned to run, I held his hand in another way altogether: firmly, to prevent him from escaping and running into the street or other places he could get into trouble.

But now, he is five. He doesn’t need me to restrain him or support him as he walks. He could walk on his own. He doesn’t run into the street anymore, although sometimes he will run ahead and then run back to me, showing me how fast he can sprint.

But for the moment, his hand in mine is gentle. The embrace of our two palms is a picture of the safety and love that we feel in each other’s presence. Our hand-holding has no purpose, no agenda other than affirmation to one other, without words, that we enjoy just being together.

How short this time is, that Aaron will hold my hand this way. In a few years, maybe sooner, his friends will let him know that holding hands with his mommy is not cool. He will be riding his bike or a scooter or skateboard. He will not hold hands with anyone, at least for a few years. So this moment, this hand-in-hand walk, is a gift.

As I walked, the words of a chorus we sing at church played through my mind: “I’m gonna hold to His hand, God’s unchanging hand.”

I want to hold God’s hand in the way Aaron and I were holding hands today: peacefully, gently, steady and sure, but free from any effort at manipulation. But sometimes, I don’t manage to hold His hand in this way.

Sometimes, I am like a willful toddler and God has to hold my hand quite firmly in order to keep me from doing something foolish. It often feels to me like He is not giving me what I want, and I protest. But in hindsight, I see that He kept me safe by not letting me run in the wrong direction.

Sometimes, walking with God, I start to stumble. Like Peter on the water, I take my eyes off Jesus and He has to reach out and catch hold of me.

And while He will always catch me, He’s likely to gently chide me, just as he did Peter: “Oh you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

I want to walk calm and steady, focused on Him and not my doubts. I want to walk through my life keeping my hand in God’s the way Aaron had his in mine, all the way to the library and all the way home—and wherever else he leads me.