A doctor told the Long’s that their new son would be a burden. He told them to put their son in a home. But there was something that the doctor didn’t know. The Long’s new “burden” already had a home.
It was somewhere around 2:00 in the morning when I heard the door open. It used to take a lot more than that to wake me up. Not anymore. I stayed in bed, anticipating what, if anything, I would hear next. That’s when I heard the footsteps. I braced myself. But it wasn’t enough to prepare me for the sound that came next – vomit splattering all over our kitchen floor.
My wife and I both jumped out of bed and assumed our positions. She started gathering towels for cleaning. I stood next to my son while he finished throwing up. When he was done, I assumed the role of cleaning. My wife took over with the comforting. We didn’t say a word. We were like a trained team of first responders.
As a father, I’ve grown to expect nights like these. They don’t happen often. Maybe once a year. There are only a few weeks left in this year. We were due. So none of this amazed me. None of it, that is, until my wife pulled out the Lysol can.
I’ve been on this planet for almost 40 years and I don’t think that I’ve ever bought a can of Lysol. Nothing against Lysol. It does a fine job of covering up odors. But hey, isn’t that one of the benefits of having kids – blaming your odors on them?
Lysol does more than cover up odors. It’s supposed to kill bacteria too. 99.9% of it. The kind that likes to linger for a few days after a kid throws up on the kitchen floor.
As my wife was spraying away all of that bacteria I thought about another woman.
She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Proverbs 31:27 (ESV)
And then I thought about myself. If it weren’t for my wife, I would have been walking all over our house searching for the Lysol that I never bought, wondering if orange juice was a worthy substitute for bacteria removal. But that wasn’t the case. She looks after the ways of her household.
There’s a lot of pressure on women. Especially mothers. Social media has a way of making some feel like failures because they don’t knit diapers for their baby, harvest their own wheat for their homemade bread, do 37 pull-ups and lead a Bible study down at the women’s penitentiary, all before 9 on the first three Tuesday mornings of the month. And, if not careful, even Proverbs 31 can seem like just another list of impossible burdens.
Thankfully, God’s grace is sufficient. And it’s usually seen in the millions of small areas of our lives. The seemingly insignificant parts of our day that we would never devote to a status update. Things like having a can of Lysol ready.
I won’t be surprised in a few days if I’m awakened again by the sound of a door opening. Followed by frantic footsteps. And then the sounds of sickness. After all, the only things kids are really good at sharing are their germs. They especially like to share them with their mother.
The one who lays next to them all through the night.
The one who cleans up after them.
The one who gives them the kind of comfort that only a mother can.
The one who sprays the house down with Lysol, killing 99.9% of the bacteria that her son has spread all over the house.
The one who knows that the remaining percentage will probably find it’s way to her.
And the one who would do it all over again.
Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her. Proverbs 31:28 (ESV)
The best laughs are the ones that you have when you’re not supposed to be laughing. You know, like the funeral where someone does an interpretive dance involving a hula hoop.
And the best time to play is when there’s something else you need to be doing. So you tell yourself that the thing that needs to be done, as important as it may be, can wait. Sometimes this backfires. Like back in college when you skipped class every day to hang out at Fast Willie’s Billiards and Brews.
But then there are those times when delaying the important for a few laughs can really pay off.
To say that my yard was out of control would be an understatement. Hollywood producers who were working on a remake of Apocalypse Now had already asked for my permission to use my front yard for a few jungle scenes. We’re still in negotiations.
Friday was my day to cut the grass. All week long I told myself that if I could just make it to the end of the week without my neighbors picketing or a pink slip on my door from the county code enforcers, I would be okay. Friday came and there were no pink slips from the county. And no protestors.
Well, there was one protestor.
My son sat quietly and patiently outside. He wanted me to play with him. I told him something about Apocalypse Now and needing to cut the grass. He just stared at me. I cut the grass.
But he didn’t go anywhere. He stayed outside. Quietly. Waiting.
His question was the same every time I walked by or turned the lawnmower off.
“Are you done? Will you play with me now?”
I thought about all of the time I spent waiting for someone to play with when I was a kid. I thought about when I eventually quit waiting and just started playing alone. I was probably the best kid in the world at throwing a football to myself. My kids need to learn how to entertain themselves and they certainly don’t need helicopter parents but I don’t want them to be as good as I was at one man football.
I turned the lawnmower off again. But this time it stayed off for a little longer. The job was only halfway done but it could wait. My son had waited long enough.
It was time for him to play with his dad.
Eventually my grass got cut that day. And pretty soon it will need to be cut again. It’s the job that never ends. Sort of like shaping boys into men. It’s a job that requires walking away from the important things that can wait so that you can do the really important things that have waited long enough.
That was the most fun I’ve had playing in a long time. I guess because I was supposed to be working. But looking back, I never really quit working. I just changed jobs. I like to think of it as a promotion.
I’m sure that when he is grown, my son will have memories of watching his dad cut the grass. But I hope that he also remembers the times when I didn’t finish the job. The times when I turned the lawnmower off halfway through because I had something more important to do.
Teaching a Sunday School lesson to a room full of three and four-year olds is right behind crab fisherman and Navy SEAL sniper on the list of the most dangerous jobs on the planet.
Our church needed a new teacher for the three and four-year-olds Sunday School class.
So unless a Navy SEAL sniper or one of the guys from The Deadliest Catch joined our church at the last minute, things weren’t looking too good. By the way, I think that Captain Sig would do an excellent job of teaching three-year-olds about Jesus. Captain Sig and the Navy SEAL sniper never volunteered.
But someone better did. Two of them.
Both have reputations. Reputations as some of the most Christ-like ladies in our community. And some of the best teachers too. So it only makes sense that one of the godliest things I’ve ever heard in church would come from one of these ladies when she explained their motives to me.
She told me how she had repeatedly let God know that she was willing to do anything that needed to be done in our church. Anything but teach a Sunday School class full of three and four-year-olds. God frequently deals in the anything but categories of our lives.
That’s what he did here. And that’s what led to one of the godliest things I’ve ever heard in church.
“I don’t really have a desire to teach that age group. I’m not able to crawl around with them on the floor. But I can teach them. And I’ll do it with joy. Whatever God wants.”
A lot has been said and written about church growth. For some, it’s all about numbers so they give out free iPads and send out mail to let everyone know that the pastor will be preaching on sex for the next few weeks. Other churches build themselves into massive amounts of debt, hoping that their new cathedrals will draw a crowd.
But none of that can replace having just a few people who are willing to do what they really don’t want to do. And do it with joy. For Jesus. Because of Jesus.
Those people have a way of being contagious. Before you know it, you’ve got a bunch of other folks who are saying and doing the same things. And then you may or may not have the biggest church but you will have one that looks an awful lot like Jesus.
And isn’t that the point?
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. Philippians 2:5-7 (ESV)
Connor Long was seven-years-old when he decided to run in his first triathlon. He came in last place. But he wouldn’t have had it any other way.
But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:25-28 (ESV)