Our attic is like a toy warehouse, housing the overflow from the kids' bedrooms and the toy boxes in the living room. As the kids trade out toys from the attic to the downstairs, they often end up lingering (… playing…) and before long the attic is a wreck. One day last week, I sent the two youngest up to fix that. After the job, my four-year-old said "Alan said you would give us dollars to pick up the toys in the attic." She expected to collect. Nice try. Your mess. Your responsibility.
But the more I thought about that, I saw myself. How often do I expect a special blessing, or a reward, or some other validation just for being obedient and doing the things God tells me to do? More often than I'd care to admit. When I value my obedience more than the God I obey, I end up with an inflated, warped view of my own importance. I start to believe my worth to God hinges on my performance, rather than His love.
God does bless and reward obedience.
Obedience does glorify Him.
But it's just my duty.
Does [the master] thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded of him? I think not. So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, "We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do." Luke 17:9-10.
One thing I’ve learned being a parent is that my kids are not that hard to impress, or that hard to entertain. Culture has impressed on us that only the big and extravagant count. Each birthday must be more elaborate, each Christmas more spectacular and each vacation more thrill-packed.
Don’t buy into it. One of the best afternoons we had last year was when we picked up lunch at KFC, took it to a park, and ate it on a picnic table. It was a beautiful fall day. The kids played on the playground equipment. We threw rocks in the Wabash River, and we all went home relaxed and renewed. My youngest would rather help me make dinner than almost anything. Whether or not my son has a good day hinges solely on whether or not he sees his dad in the morning.
I hate the phrase “quality time”. I think it’s Orwellian doublespeak that primes us to fall into the ‘bigger and better’ trap. We bond, we strengthen relationships over any kind of time. Even boring things, like eating dinner together build a sense of structure and security into our family. Special routines, like Saturday morning pancakes or January Movie Month add to that.
(In January, since the weather is yucky, we try to catch up on the movies we wanted to see but missed. The rule is, it has to be a movie none of us has seen. Some weeks we watch them Fridays and Saturdays. Other weeks, it’s everybody on Friday, Mom & Dad on Saturday.)
Now, let’s make a jump to our relationship to God. Do I long for the quiet and secure with Him, or do I expect to be treated to bigger and better displays of ‘parental perfection’? Honestly, quite often, I’m brat in my relationship with God. I need to pick up another lesson from Alan and make sure my day’s success depends on time spent with my Father and not what I accomplish or fail to do.