Joel's photograph of a beautiful cloudy sunset
Years ago, Clay and I had decided that when our children moved toward their middle teen years, we would try to find summer training, seminars, activities that would build their skills and vision in the areas of their interest. He took the boys to music and song writing festivals and camps because of both of their interest in music and song writing, Nathan to an international symposium on Christian performers, clowns, magicians when he used to perform magic shows for birthday parties and shared the gospel and juggled (even fire!). We included Christian gatherings on world view and all sorts of other interests. The girls accompanied me to many mission regions, to seminars and tea parties to celebrate life together. We would take turns traveling so as to keep everyone else at home stable.
One such trip a few years ago, I was with one of my older children for 8 days at an international competition far from home. It was at a very busy time of my life with pressures, deadlines and conferences looming in the distance. But, since we had made it a commitment many years before, Clay and I decided that even though it would be an expensive week, it would be a good investment in our child's future.
So, throughout the week, I helped this child with all of the competitions. I spent hours in the office depot shop working on pictures and resumes and presentation materials for this child. I washed clothes in the wee hours of the night, and stayed awake as hotel dryers take so much longer. I prayed with the child, encouraged, left notes on the pillow at night and in every way tried to support in this national massive competition.
By God's grace, this child (who will remain anonymous), made it into the finals where no parents were allowed to attend the final session. So I sat in my lonely hotel room, had no friends there, and waited the three hours to see what the outcome would be, all the while cleaning up the room, repacking all the paraphernalia, clothes slung on the ground in a hurry in between competitions, and food scraps stuffed down on the run. I was on pins and needles, waiting, waiting to hear the results-- as this particular child was in great need of encouragement at this season of life and I had been sort of begging God for his blessings as though He needed me to tell Him what to do.
Finally, I got a text on my phone that said, "I am out now and going to hang out with some of the friends I have made. Later."
Then when I texted back and called back, no answer!
No mention of the results of the competition, no comment on the outcome, or any sense that I was waiting to talk to this child. I was steaming mad. I started rehearsing all of the ways I had sacrificially served this child. Giving up my time and my sleep and a couple of thousand dollars to fly, stay in the hotel, prepare for the training, loving, encouraging, feeding, helping, praying.
As I sat in the hotel room with tears in my eyes, I planned a scathing speech I was going to make and my indignance at the lack of gratefulness in this child spilled over in prolific words. I would make this child feel all that I had done to sacrifice for this week. I would exact payment for the lack of consideration.
As I sat thinking about all of this and began to pray, suddenly it was as though the Lord spoke very clearly to my heart.
"Well, that's what you do to me all the time. You just take me for granted. Every day, I paint the sky with colors at sunrises and sunsets, I have sprinkled the highways and gardens with flowers and colors of changing leaves and dot the landscape with pure white snow. You rarely even notice. I have protected your family all these years in your travel, I provide friends and encouragements all along the way. I speak to your heart. I have redeemed you at great cost. I died for you and live in you and encourage you. I have thoughts and plans and pleasures to give to you each day--of how to bless you and help you and lead you, I work in your children's lives and in your ministry--but often, you just go your busy way and don't even see all the ways I am with you. As a Father of children, I, too, am driven to provide and to bless, but most of the time, you are busy with your own agenda and don't even see Me in the most intimate details of your life. I am more likely to hear a complaint or request than thanks. But, my love will not fail--I will always love you. This child of yours is just immature--just like you."
And then I thought of the 10 blind men that were healed--all grateful, with a new life before them, untold pleasure to see the faces of their loved ones, to be able to walk alone, cook their own food, watch a sunset. And yet, only one came back to thank Jesus. Only one turned his heart into the compassionate face of His creator and healer to appreciate the miracle performed quietly, humble out of a heart of love.
Shame washed over my mind and heart. How guilty I was. How ungrateful, inconsiderate I had been of the Most High--and yet still He was faithful to me, and to my child.
Please, Lord Jesus, please forgive my negligence; I am so undeserving. Open my eyes to see, let my mouth and my heart deeply admire and appreciate your fingerprints on my life. Help me to be the one who remembers to thank you. I am so deeply grateful, I am so sorry, I am so humbled. I am so glad you are a God of grace, please restore me into the fellowship of your love......
And so my humbled heart did not spew out anger, but grace, to my oblivious child. But, in the patience of parent love, now learned anew from my own Father, I extended grace and celebrated in the great results of the judges. One more moment saved by grace.