It’s dinnertime and my then-seven-year-old is running around the kitchen, gleefully keeping a bouncing ball away from his younger sister. “Cade, put the ball away and get ready for dinner, please.” It was simple request; one sentence with two fairly direct instructions. I had forgotten however, that when their little pleasure receptors are in high gear, children lose their ability to understand grown-up talk. You didn’t think the adults in Charlie Brown spoke in unintelligible wah-wah-wahs just for comedic effect, did you? Silly rabbit – it’s all about the neuroscience. My words, lost in translation, don’t make it to his language pathways and the game ensues.
I try shortening the command, hoping to slip it into the width of his attention span. “Cade, put the ball away.” Translation: wah-wah-wah. Ugh! “Cade. Ball. Away. NOW.”
Then the inevitable happens, Cade trips and falls flat on his face at my feet. In my best mommy voice, I peer down at him and say “See, if you had put the ball away when I asked that wouldn’t have happened.” Feeling a sense of superiority of having been right, I awaited his apology for his failure to attend.
Cade, collecting himself from the floor, dusts himself off and in a respectful, but firm, tone says, “YOU should be more concerned about whether I am okay, and less about whether or not I listened to you in the first place.” From the mouth of babes! He was right! But, not willing to give him the satisfaction, I sent him off with a parental glare. Another great mommy moment for the history books.
I love God and my children fiercely! Ironically, I seem to fail them frequently. I don’t intend to, but seemingly out of nowhere, my unsightly side leaks out. God in His kindness has seen fit to use my children to show me my heart. EEEEK! It’s not always a pleasant sight, and occasionally leaves me and my kiddos looking at the mess thinking, “Wow, that’s……gross.”
Relational blunders are par for course. In God’s sovereignty, He allows everything first for His heavenly purposes, and secondly for our benefit. What else can teach us most about His heart, and our own, then our most intimate of relationships; our spouses and our children. God’s teachable moments, those everyday interactions with those to whom we have pledged ourselves, can reveal our heart’s messiest of places. Confronted with those messy places we can run from them, conceal them, pretend they don’t exist, or we can hold them under a microscope, dissect them, and ask, “Eeeew! What was that?”
Every mess, every less than glorious interaction with those whom we fail to love well, reveals something about our heart that God longs to redeem! His intention is not to shame us into obedience or burden us with guilt, but to invite us towards greater rest, love, and freedom.
Love would have extended a hand and asked Cade if he were okay, without the admonishment.
Rest would have cast-off the timetable and relentless evening schedule to enter his joy.
Freedom would have summoned me to join the game and embrace all-too-fleeting childhood moments.
That evening’s incident said far more about my heart than it did about Cade’s. I had intended to impart the lesson that there is wisdom in obedience. Instead, my ego took over and taught him that I valued being right over his well-being; a lesson which took far longer to uproot from his heart than it did to plant. Each glimpse of our heart comes with an invitation to enter the ick and consider what we find there. We can dismiss the ick because its unpleasant, or we can embrace it and allow it to lead us towards a greater understanding of that which prevents us from offering ourselves fully. Why did my ego need to feel powerful over a seven-year-old? Ick! Those are hard questions, but stepping towards it, is how we find our way through it.
Cade and I both fell on our face that night. Much like his ball, my own brokenness can distract me from His voice. In fact, I frequently find myself tripping and falling face-down at the feet of my Savior, but I am endlessly in awe of how well He loves me there. Thankfully, God is a perfect Father. When we fall down, He cares outrageously more about whether we are okay than whether we listened to Him in the first place.