This past Friday I had the privilege of serving as a Watch DOG at my daughter’s elementary school. Before I go any further let me explain that D.O.G.S. is nothing more than an acronym for Dads Of Great Students. Yeah, I know that it is cheesy but isn’t just about any acronym? Anyhow, back to the point, I spent this day trying to be of some help to the faculty. Sometimes that help meant carrying supplies to the art teacher. Other times it meant taking a child for a walk to help him calm down before making some bad choices. But my favorite thing of the day was sitting at a lunch table with my daughter in kindergarten and having lunch with her and a few of her friends. I got to laugh with them and talk with them – much to the dismay of the lady in charge of the lunch room. Apparently, I was not being the best example. On the off chance that she is reading this blog – I’m sorry. The most amazing thing about the entire day was the privilege of entering my daughter’s world and being a part of it even if only for a few hours.
I don’t know about you, but all too often I find myself thinking that I know the lives of my children. I take for granted that I can understand the pressures and difficult choices that they face. After all I am an adult and I deal with real problems everyday. On Friday, I found myself thanking God for the opportunity to understand how little I really understand. Parents, I hate to break this to you but you and I are more out of touch than we realize. We don’t know the pressures that exist in our children’s lives. I know you are probably thinking, “Your daughter is in kindergarten! What pressures does she have?” That is what I thought too. But you see, I got to see how my daughter handled being bullied. I got to see how my daughter handled a needy friend. I got to see my daughter focus on something by blocking out all the voices around her. Now please understand I have no illusions that my daughter is perfect, but what I saw gave me great hope. I saw a little girl who is confident. I saw a little girl who cared for everyone – regardless of their popularity. I saw a little girl who was learning to focus on one thing and let the voices around her fade away, which gives me great hope that one day she will be able to focus on Jesus and let all the other junk fade away as well. I saw a little girl who spent the entire day bragging to everyone that her daddy was at her school. Honestly, it was a relatively insignificant commitment to me. I usually have Friday’s off and I have the flexibility in my schedule to make changes occasionally. But that one day taught me so very much and meant more to my daughter than I could have ever imagined. Now I must confess that there were so many days that I could have been up there, but I chose to rest, or work ahead on some project, or whatever. Parents, you know that our kids grow up so incredibly fast. My prayer for you and for me is that God grants us the grace and wisdom to redeem the time we have to make the greatest impact on our children that we possibly can because all too soon the time will be over and the day will be gone.
I know that it may come as a bit of a surprise to some of you, but I can be an extremely competitive person. Fortunately, over the years God has mellowed me. Yet, this past Saturday morning I felt the beast rise again. My oldest daughter, Micaela, is in kindergarten and is playing her first year of Upward Basketball. Now for you to really grasp the gravity of this situation you must know that I am an incredible basketball fanatic. I can even watch those crazy European leagues with the trapezoid shaped lanes. So here I am watching my daughter experience her first tastes of pseudo-competitive basketball, and I discover my blood pressure rising. Understand I am not mad or frustrated with her, but I want to go out and show her how things should be done, where she should be, what she should be doing, etc. While my mind is running on the question of how can I teach her to become better, the minds of the kids (my daughter included) is simply on having fun. Mentally, I was coaching up a team. The reality was that I should have been laughing my head off since all the kids were running around like a herd of squirrels in a nut farm.
John Piper writes in his classic book, Desiring God, that our purpose is to enjoy God forever. The older I get the more I am convinced that Piper may not be far off. You see, I believe that we all do much the same thing as I was trying to do with my daughter. She was simply enjoying the fun of being able to run around and chase a ball with friends. She had not desire to understand the finer points of the game. She had no desire to be best basketball player in the gym. She simply wanted to have fun. I wonder how our lives might be different if we lived our lives with the simple focus of enjoying our relationship with Jesus instead of focusing on all the fine points of theology, all the lists of what we should and shouldn’t be doing, and all the things we think others expect of us. To be sure, we need to know theology. We need to live out our faith. But what would happen if we did so not out of a fear of what others might think but simply because we were enjoying our relationship with Jesus. What if we spent time in prayer, not because we know we should, but because we simply enjoy being in God’s presence. What if we told others about Jesus, not because the pastor told us to, but because we simply cannot help but talk about the One who loves us so much. What if we do what we do out of a love for Jesus rather than out of obligation. How would our lives change? How would our churches change? How would our worship change? Imagine that, a simple purpose to enjoy God forever. Sounds a lot better than any substitute. Sounds a lot like what we will do in heaven for all eternity. Sounds a lot like what we should be about.
Without question my favorite time of year is Christmas. I love the sounds. I love the music. I absolutely love the food. I even love the Christmas specials on TV – well most of them anyway. This morning I woke up at about 2 a.m. and wandered in to the kitchen to get something to drink. I noticed that our Christmas tree was…well…leaning a bit. Before you get confused and think that I am somehow lucid at 2 a.m. understand that we had forgotten to turn the lights off on the tree so it was basically the only light in the room. As I began to really wake up I noticed how much our tree was leaning. I had noticed it before but never really realized how dramatic the lean really was. It was as though the tree had drunk a little too much of the egg nog and was failing a field sobriety test. I confess I began to laugh quietly as this thought went through my mind, until I wondered if I was doing the same thing.
No I don’t mean that I was sauced on egg nog – hard or otherwise – but that I had slowly but surely allowed myself to get off kilter as it relates to what is really important at this time of year. Am I spending so much time and money trying to get my kids something when what they really need more than something is someone? Parents, let’s be honest with one another for a moment. Over the past several weeks have you spent more time shopping for your kids than you have spent with your kids? I don’t mean time that you have spent in their presence as they are doing their homework and you are watching the news. I mean time really engaged with them – talking about their day, wrestling in the floor, letting them help you make dinner. If I am brutally honest with myself, I don’t invest nearly enough time with my children. What about you? Have you bought in to all the junk about providing things for your kids but without ever really giving yourself to them? If so, during this next week – the week of Christmas – let’s stop sipping the egg nog and get ourselves back on center. Let’s remember that our kids need us much more than they will ever need stuff.
God bless you and Merry Christmas!!!