Saturday, January 24, 2009

Lately God seems to have taken a particular liking in speaking to me only by echoing my own voice. At first, I didn’t mind - actually it was kind of cute. Almost fun. I'd say I took it as a compliment. Few weeks ago, for example, Caleb was putting together a jumbo crane built out of Brio blocks, and the structure was way too big and kept leaning to one side or the other, and eventually falling altogether. Needless to say, he was getting frustrated and it WAS showing! I looked at the crane and said to him, Your structure is way too big for your foundation, honey! If your structure is wobbly and falling apart, that means you need to focus on strengthening the foundation. You need to stabilize it by making your foundation more sturdy. I have barely finished speaking to Caleb when a little echo rung in my ear,

Your structure is way too big for your foundation, honey! If your structure is wobbly and falling apart, that means you need to focus on strengthening the foundation. You need to stabilize it by making your foundation more sturdy.

I thought of my propensity towards overreaching, overstretching… Overachieving?!!!!! The crabbiness and the utmost exhaustion with which I greet our bed every night… yes, I would say that my structure is wobbly and in parts it IS falling apart. It is true, I do need to focus on the foundation... I should make it sturdy again…

These little echoes continued for weeks… After awhile I started wondering if He has nothing new to say… This repetition business started getting on my nerves, annoying my ability to listen out of me. Yesterday morning, for example, the kids got distracted with toys and were not ready for school when it was just about time to leave. I told them that we need to leave immediately, which sent our Oscar-winner-in-the-making drama queen into a fit of frenzied panic. I responded in the like manner. YOU FREAKING OUT OVER NOT BEING READY IS NOT GOING TO GET US TO SCHOOL ANY SOONER! Then, far, far in the back in my mind where I can barely hear, this sweet, soft voice was repeating the same,

You freaking out over not being ready is not going to get us to school any sooner.

I don’t want to hear this anymore! I barked. Why do You keep repeating these things to me all the time?!!!!

The answer came in the most appropriate way imaginable, out of the mouth of my know-it-all seven year old son. I was engaged in my broken-record instructional exercises I deem my sacred parental right and responsibility (some people call it nagging), when he barked at me, Why do you keep repeating these things to me all the time?!!!

Because,… I stopped, and with new awareness proceeded to finish softly, … because you are not listening to me. You may hear me with your ears, but you are not doing what I am telling you to do. This is why I have to repeat and keep repeating – until you learn to actually do what I am telling you to do. Hearing is not the same as doing. It is the doing of my words that makes the difference.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

No, I want to EARN my after-dinner candy, announced our 7-year old, Cross-the-‘T’s, Dot-the-‘I’s son. I stared at him bewildered.

Why on earth would you want to ‘earn’ your candy when you can just have it?!!! I responded.

No, but I want to earn it. And here’s the to-do list I created! He showed me a piece of paper divided by lines, indicating the days of the week and the chore of the day he needs to fulfill in order to earn his candy. On Tuesdays he had to Clean out the Plates; the Wednesday chore was Put Away the Salad Bowl. I chuckled at his meticulous nitpicking of the clean-up process and wondered where in the world he got this ridiculous idea.

Ordinarily our after-dinner clean-up procedure involves all family members and we all do whatever we can to clear the table as efficiently as possible so we can quickly get to the most important part of the meal - the dessert! There are no assigned jobs per se, no lists of chores, no points, no awards. The dessert is always on the menu and has nothing to do with who does what. We work together and we enjoy the eclairs together. My desire has always been to raise children with a strong sense of belonging to and enjoyment of our family, empowered to do what they can in carrying the burden of running a household or living a life. I don’t necessarily need them to work for me, but working together increases the sense of belonging and comradery and it’s more fun. Love and pleasure are given and received freely. All this to say that ‘earning points’ runs deeply against my parenting (and I might add, life!) philosophy. I want to raise a son and a daughter, not a slave and a haggler.

However, since our haggler-in-the-making insisted on earning his desert, I decided to alter my approach and give him a to-do list in order to acquire his candy.

Alright then
, I started slowly, You need to kiss me five times on my right cheek, twice on the tip on my nose and you must tickle my belly-button at least once in order to get your candy.

At the mention of the magic word belly-button, my daughter pounced out of her chair and proceeded to smooch my face with slobbery kisses and stuck her head under my shirt in search for my navel in order to tickle it with her little fingers. To say that she got the drift of what I was trying to do would be a sore understatement. My husband shook his head and rolled his eyes, and our son walked by us with dignified disgust, carrying his plate into the kitchen. He took the four plates off the table and stacked them carefully onto the counter, and when I pointed out that he’d left the dirty silverware, he pierced me with his eyes, icicles dripping out of his mouth,

Silverware is NOT on my list of chores for today, and walked away. I didn’t know whether I should laugh or cry.

How in the world did we end up raising a Pharisee?!!!

And then, a pause. And a peek into one of those redemptive windows into the Father’s soul.

I know, I often wonder the same about My own children.

It is beyond my comprehension why do I rather choose to stiff-lip, teeth-grit my way of earning my brownie points with God, than accept His free invitation to joy of smooching His face with kisses, knowing that my reward and my inheritance in Him is secure? What is it in me that would rather be a slave and a score-keeper than the Tickle Monster daughter of the King? Why would I rather miss out on the pleasure of intimate connection than surrender my meticulously dissected list of rules and regulations, refusing the invitation and resenting the party while scrupulously stacking my dirty plates?

In the time leading up to Incarnation, it was the Pharisees who knew the Word of God, who loved the Word of God, who took upon themselves to preserve and enforce the keeping of the Word of God because they had such keen appreciation of its unspeakable value and power. And yet, somewhere along the way, they, like us, started turning down an invitation after invitation to smooch and tickle, to rest and adore, to listen to the Voice as they pored over the Word on the parchment and slowly, imperceptibly the living, breathing, laughing, crying Word of God calcified into a monument of human religiosity, passing down spiritual arteriosclerosis onto all subsequent generations of the people of God. Following in their footsteps, we continue to divest the purpose of God of the Person of God and exploit His words to create a formula for micro-management of our petty universe. Our plates are clean, our silverware polished, our tablecloths ironed and all the napkins carefully placed in the napkin rings. But we forget that party is more than stacking the plates, and family is not about earning and scoring. We can be sooo close, close enough to hear the din of the party, the laughter and the noise and still miss Him altogether. And, yet, like in the story about two brothers, the Father still speaks to the generations of older brothers, Son, you have always been with Me, and all that is Mine is yours… Son… Son… Son…