Monday, July 03, 2006

At the pace of the children

“Huwwy, huwwy! We gonna be LATE!” Our two-year old stood in the center of the kitchen and shouted at full volume.

In our usual form, we were rushing around the other day, getting ready to go out the door.

The little one had obviously been through the routine before, watching Mom, from her command post, calling orders like a drill sergeant: “Got your sunscreen on? Good. Where’s your towel? Go find your flip-flops. Someone kennel the dog. Who’s got the drinks? Hey, who left the door open?”

There she stood, completely ready to go out the door, and yet sensing the chaos around her. She was only repeating what she had heard many times before.

We were going to the pool, and we were running late.

I stopped, for the first time, and looked at her clenched fists, bulging jugulars, and serious face. Did it really matter that we were late to go to the pool?

Her words cut me to the quick. What was the rush?

That scene was still fresh in my mind again yesterday morning as I was reading one of my favorite stories in Scripture, where Jacob, after tricking his brother out of his birthright, left home in fear of his life. After being estranged for twenty years, Jacob sent messengers to tell his brother Esau that he was coming to meet him (Gen. 32 & 33).

Here’s a little synopsis:

As a wealthy and shrewd businessman, I’m sure Jacob was used to meeting with important people. But knowing Esau could still be smarting over the whole birthright saga, I would hazard a guess that this was the most significant meeting of Jacob’s life. He planned it very carefully, arranging to protect his family, and sending gifts ahead to make the best impression on Esau that he possibly could.

I’m sure it wasn’t on the original agenda, but that night, while he waited to see whether Esau would accept the gifts, Jacob wrestled with God Himself. A night of struggling resulted in a permanent limp – but, as usual, Jacob got what he wanted – a blessing from God.

Amazingly, the next day, Esau ran to embrace Jacob – with much insisting and a lot of calling Esau “my lord,” Esau accepted Jacob's gifts. All seemed to be going according to plan.

Then there were the introductions. Jacob presented his family – all eleven sons – to Esau. The ceremony was over. Esau then invited Jacob to come back to his home: “Let us be on our way. I’ll accompany you.”

Here's where Jacob took a risk. I wonder if things weren’t a bit tense, as he looked at Esau, the man who at one time intended to kill him for his treachery, and said:

My lord knows that the children are tender and that I must care for the ewes and cows that are nursing their young. If they are driven hard just one day, all the animals will die.

So let my lord go on ahead of his servant, while I move along slowly at the pace of the droves before me and that of the children. (Genesis 33:13-14)

Knowing how important this meeting was, surely Jacob could have easily justified forcing the children to walk just a little faster. Perhaps not run, but maybe just trot a little?

Here he was – the father of a nation – at the most important meeting of his life.

And yet – he chose – to move at the pace of the children.

Okay, so here I am, a mom, going to the POOL, and I am trying to push my children to go at MY pace? Who do I think I am, anyway?

I like to imagine Jacob, after presenting extravagant gifts that demonstrated his wealth and power to Esau, finally introducing his children: “Here’s Judah, and Reuben, and Dan, and over here – here’s my little Joseph.” He told Esau, “They are the children God has graciously given your servant.”

Perhaps at that moment Jacob realized that he had already received his blessing – the one he had wrestled with God for.

These small, easily wearied children were the very ones God had promised to his father and grandfather. The children that would someday be used to bless all nations.

The night before, Jacob brazenly asked God to bless him. But after introducing his children, one by one, he said, “God has been gracious to me, and I have all I need.”

How do I see my children?

Do I see them as gracious gifts from God? Or do I see them as interruptions, hindrances on my way to somewhere more important, more fun, or more interesting? Do I see my work at home with them as significant, or do I find greater satisfaction in pursuing my own interests, making my children run along behind me, trying to catch up? When was the last time I let someone or something go on ahead of me, choosing instead to take the slow, ambling route with my kids?

I struggle daily to balance my children’s needs against my own – my own needs, my own wants, my own agenda. Mainly, my own timetable. I admit I am, more often than not, frustrated by their complete inability to grasp the importance of my adult to-do list.

My prayer is that somehow, like Jacob, I can be a careful planner. But more importantly, as I look into each small, tender face today, may I realize again, that God has been gracious to me, and that I have all I need.

Whether going to the pool or to an important meeting, may I choose to move along slowly, at the pace of the children.


Jennifer said...

Wow! That was very insightful and exactly what I needed today. Thank you. I need to be reminded that life should be enjoyed at a much slower pace...

Tammy said...

What insightful's so hard to balance our children's needs with ours sometimes. I, too, also needed to hear this today.
Also, your party preparation post was interesting to read too...especially in light of my own daughter's slumber party which I just posted on! Whew- it went well but so glad it's behind me! ;)
Have a great 4th and thanks for stopping at my blog the other day!

Beck said...

Oh, that's a wonderful reminder. Thank you for that.

Glass Half Full said...

I have been in your situation many times! I have rushed Matthew and vented my frustrations that things are not going at MY pace then conviction sets in. Thanks for reminding us that we need to slow down. :)

Laura said...

What a great insight and a great post!!! Thanks for sharing this! (as I was about to hurry about to get Lou ready for swim lessons)

Michelle- This One's for the Girls said...

Oh, I love that passage you used. Very good post, Katherine.

AJ said...

What a wonderful post. I am more than guilty of being a "rusher". Mostly to Target, for crying out loud!

Thanks for posting this - I've already stuck these scriptures on my fridge.

Ann Voskamp @Holy Experience said...

The questions. Thank-you for asking the questions. How *do* I view my children?

And now I need to sift through to the answers.

Ann V.

Anonymous said...

I now move at the pace of my children when with them.

However, even when my husband is watching them, I find I'm stuck on slow. I can't do anything fast anymore!

But I no longer mind the fact that it usually 10 - 30 minutes to do a 2 minute task.