Yesterday was Father’s Day. I was pretty proud of myself for getting ahead on this. It was several weeks ago when I took Mister into the Beer Shop in town, allowed him to pick out some ales for his Dad and bought them on his behalf. (This is allowed, right? I figure since he’s 2, and not 15, and since we’re buying it for his father, and not for him and his mates, it’s OK. At least, I hope so. Still figuring out this parenting lark.) So, beer bought, we headed home and spent a bit of time creating a card for Desert Dad. Mister loves cutting and sticking at the moment, so it wasn’t difficult to persuade him to produce something. As I was getting things ready, doing the bits he couldn’t do, writing the card and so on, Mister was fiddling with an old egg box – drawing on it, glueing it, shaking a whole load of sparkly bits and bobs onto the glue. I didn’t take much notice to be honest. Whatever he was doing didn’t look very important or interesting, but it was keeping him occupied. I was pretty pleased with the card he’d produced and gave myself a metaphorical pat on the back. What a good mum I was. And that was that. Until yesterday morning. Desert Dad headed downstairs to make a start on breakfast. “Hey Mister,” I whispered. “It’s Father’s Day, time to give Daddy his beer and that special card you made him.” I picked up the bag containing said beer and card, and we both danced down the stairs excitedly, Mister ahead of me. I assumed he would head to the kitchen, where Daddy was, so we could give him his present. No. Without a moment’s thought, he went into the dining room, where his egg box still sat from weeks ago. He grabbed it and ran into the kitchen “Here you go Daddy, this is for you!” I had forgotten but he had not. I was totally humbled and embarrassed and guilty. What right had I to interfere in Mister’s communication of love to his father? This was Mister’s special gift to his Dad. Not the beer – which could have come from any of his friends or family. Not the card – which was motivated by me. The egg box could only have come from Mister. And Mister could only have given that egg box. He can’t yet put into words what he feels for his Dad, but he can express it through sequins, glitter, glue and felt tip pens. I hope we can always keep Mister’s egg box as a sign that however weak or inadequate our gifts to God seem, if they come from our heart then they are a beautiful, fragrant sacrifice of worship.
Recently, I got the luxury of a few hours to myself. In the daytime. If you’re a parent, you’ll know what I’m on about. Bliss!
I headed into town for a bit of cake at York Cocoa House. Whilst there, I took out a notepad and pen and thought and wrote, thought and wrote. Taking advantage of the beautiful sunshine, I spent the next couple of hours sitting in Minster Gardens, continuing to think, pray and read (Philippians, if you’re interested).
I was taking time out to – well, to re-evaluate my use of time. See, I’m an ideas freak who never likes to sit down for more than a few minutes, thrives on hecticness (hecticity? I think I like that better) and always wants to say ‘yes’ to new commitments or projects which excite me. And I’m excited by quite a lot. But I’d realised that I was over-stretching myself. Important things were getting missed out. I wasn’t getting time to rest, to reflect, to plan. My life had become one big to-do list.
A friend commented to me recently how strange it is when people happily admit their character flaws, followed by a statement like “that’s just the way I am”. “I’m far too outspoken – but that’s just the way I am.” “I don’t like not getting my own way – that’s just me.” My friend wondered why, if someone had discovered an unsavoury part of their character, they didn’t just change it?
Part of the answer might be that, secretly, we’re quite proud of our character, even the bits that might be seen as more negative. Because even these character traits have the potential for good. “My life is too busy.” (This one’s mine.) It’s not a bad thing to be busy (Proverbs 31:27), not a bad thing to have ideas, to want to see them through, to have an eye for detail. In fact, all these things can be very good. Trouble is, my busyness has the potential to interrupt my relationship with God. My busyness can make me look like I’m on fire for Him when in reality I’ve hardly acknowledged Him for days. The time I had to myself recently, as well as being very much needed for its own sake, helped me look more widely at how I use my time, pray things through and seek some guidance over what to focus on and what to let go.
“It’s just the way I am” is not good enough. Yes, God made me like this. I am not a mistake. But I am not perfect. I am not yet part of the new creation. I am in the process of being refined and, to truly discover who I am, I need to give myself over to the One who knows me better than I know myself. Only He can change me into the person I was created to be. And this will be my true, full identity. Not “the way I am” but “the way I’m designed to be”. And it will be fuller, richer and more glorious than anything I’m proud of now!