Monday, July 28, 2008

Helping Daddy

One thing I love about my children is how desperately they yearn to be helpful. I have three lovely assistants for all my screw driving, tooth brushing, seatbelt buckling, word processing, DVD cleaning, tea steeping, floor sweeping, needle raking, laundry folding, cake baking, grocery shopping, Band-Aid sticking, and doll hair trimming needs.

With all this help, it’s a wonder I manage to come up with things to do with my excess leisure time.

Or something like that.

Of course, the well-intentioned help of my dear ones proves to be a routine disaster. It costs me time, money and patience. With three little women at work, less things get done in more time generating more mess and waste than even I in all my advanced klutziness could manage on my own.

Working with their help is inefficiency on steroids.

And it is beautiful.

In one of his videos, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People author Stephen Covey relates his frustrating experience working toward delegating lawn care to his son. All he asked for were two things: green and clean. Simple as that seemed to Daddy Covey, his son consistently let things slide. Green faded to tan. Trash piled up. It was taking Covey more time and stress to supervise the job his son was doing badly than it would have taken to do it well himself.

Days into the experiment, Covey was ready to fire his new gardener. But he pulled himself aside and reviewed his real purpose in the whole process: “Raising boys, not grass.”

The young gardener kept his job.

Having my children help me makes an abomination of my proverbial lawn. I get scratched DVDs, a broken computer keyboard, eggshells in my birthday cake. I take a full 15 minutes to load the minivan while they buckle their own car seats. It takes longer still if I commit the atrocity of starting the buckling myself, because then they have to undo my work and redo it themselves. It makes me crazy.

But what am I here to raise—pretty turf or helpful souls?

I have often wondered why God lets us help Him. He could self-reveal directly to people and circumvent all our human distortions of Who He is. He could feed the world with a couple loaves of Roman Meal and a few cans of tuna instead of waiting on us to share our own loaves and fishes. He could finance mission work using some of His own cattle on His own thousand hills without relying on the fickleness of our generosity. He could realize social justice with His own omnipotent hand rather than suffering the sight of our clinging to the status quo.

It must make Him sick sometimes. You can hear His impatience in the voice of the Old Testament prophets. If I get anxious waiting for my girls to buckle their seatbelts, how much more desperate He must be for us to hurry up and do the right thing for people. He cries with all the victims of all the suffering we allow to go on. This is more than a pretty lawn we’re talking about.

If the Father wants it done right, why doesn’t He just do it Himself?

Maybe this was part of Jesus’ third temptation—bow and enjoy the convenience of having things right in the world without the hassle of having to work one by one, day by excruciating day, with people who are so slow, so stubborn, so immature. Maybe it is a temptation He has to keep fending off. Or maybe He faced it and conquered it on the day He settled on the insane decision to create people in His image.

Whatever the case, I’m sure of one thing. God is definitely much more interested in growing people—with all its steroid-size inefficiency—than in getting things done right or quickly or efficiently or any of those other things I lust for when I’m letting my children help their Daddy.

I need to learn from Him the patience that relishes baby steps in my children despite the mess they make while they are learning. I want to delight in their desire to help without regard for how unhelpful their efforts may seem. I long to celebrate what they are learning to do, even when it takes longer and turns out worse than I could have done on my own.

I am here to raise girls, not grass.


kcurtis said...

Thanks Mike for the reminder of what we are about as parents . . . coming from a parent whose children are now much older, and whose eagerness to help in the way you have described has diminished somewhat over the years (but probably still manifests itself in other forms), and who is often tempted (and too often gives in to) simply doing what is efficient and expedient rather than what reflects the calling of a parent at its best. The moment of clarity and refocusing that your have shared is both encouraging and appreciated. Thanks again.

Ginger said...

The phrase "time well spent" comes to mind.

As always, keep writing! You're good for the reader's soul. :)