This is the scene. I’ll bet a lot of you have been in it.
Mom, sitting at the dining room table. Hot coffee. Laptop. Scrolling mindlessly through FB and mildly amusing herself.
Kids, aged 5 1/2 and 2-months-shy-of-4, screaming at each other in the living room.
Mom, still sitting at table: Girls! What are you doing?
Girls: She’s not giving me the toy. She hit me. I want that. Stop throwing things. (Not necessarily in that order or that clearly)
Mom, in between sips of coffee: Come here.
(no response) Mom again a little louder and marginally more forceful: COME HERE.
Now one of two things happen, they either begrudgingly drag themselves in by mom, or rather one of three things… only one of them shows up in mom’s vicinity. Or no one shows up.
Then one of two things happen, mom gets up from her chair, also begrudgingly, and starts yelling at both of them half-heartedly about getting along and not fighting over toys and you have too many toys any way and she’s going to start throwing toys away if you don’t get along and do you understand me and then in moments she’s back on her chair amusing herself with animal videos.
I feel like this is how we interact with large groups of people across the spectrum on a daily basis. We distant-parent. We think you shouldn’t do that. We think you should stop that behavior. We think you should make wise choices. We think we know what wise choices apply to you and your life. We think you should stop interrupting our coffee.
Obviously, the right answer is to be a helicopter parent, where you are never more than an arm’s length away and can intervene at every possible moment and make sure everyone is doing the right thing at all times. Because that’s fun.
What kind of parent, all in all, is God?
Sometimes I picture God like the parent who goes out to dinner and leaves the biggest kid in charge. This feels like a mistake. But we hope that the biggest kid is the most mature and wise and Christ-like. One can hope.
Or maybe God is like the parent on the phone at the park while the kid terrorizes all the other kids and when one of the kids finally fights back that parent engages. So not cool.
I’m glad God isn’t my parenting skill level. I have caught myself yelling at my kids “STOP YELLING!” This is mixed messaging at its best. I wish I could have recorded it all because the irony was so thick, it was like a photo frame you could place on it. “This is Ironic”
I’ve seen God’s parenting skills in action. I’ve felt them. I hate them. I love them. It’s what brought me where I am and it’s His grace that continues to let me experience his very Spirit in the midst of painful discipline and correction.
But I still fail people by distant-parenting them. I still can’t put my coffee cup down and walk into their lives and listen to their hearts’ cries. I still can’t actively engage in justice because this sloth video is hilarious. But I click LIKE on all the things I agree with – distant-liking – and I get angry and then go about my day.
Instead of being distant, we need to go the distance. (groan) But really, it’s not only walking a mile in their shoes, it’s walking two. It’s saying I am made to be the hands and feet of Jesus, actively seeking ways to be light in dark places and useful in helpless situations.
Church, it’s time to engage.
I’ve been as guilty as anyone. I’ve been comfortable and concerned with my own household – a noble work to be sure – but it’s time to go outside. It’s time to take what we have learned as a family, saved and grown by grace and hope, and spread it around.
I get up from the table and I listen to each side’s viewpoint. I take the toy and I say I’ll put it away if you can’t share. The younger sibling says she’s sorry. The older says she forgives. And we take turns playing with the toy. Within moments, I’m back at the table drinking my room temperature coffee and my girls are laughing and singing together. It doesn’t always end this way, but it does today and I feel the face the God.