Collin will never remember that we played in the back yard last night. Trucks, a fort, a slide. Him playing, me working. He loves to create new games but with a twist. The twist is that the games leave the other participant doing most of the work and Collin sitting on his skinny behind. The game yesterday called for him to sit at the top of his slide with me positioned at the foot of the slide. I was to hold a large toy dumptruck in place at the end while he tried to slide various items down into it: cups, sidewalk chalk, a stick, his shoes and a smaller dump truck. The items mostly jumped the large dump truck and scattered with the exception of his rubber shoes, which refused to slide even after he applied some spit to them. It was my further duty to gather up the scattered items and return them to him.
I mentioned to him this game involved a lot of work for me. Collin said he had important work to do also because it was hard to get the items lined up correctly on the slide so that they’d go into the bed of the dump truck at the bottom. I said his work looked more engaging and interesting than my work but he was unsympathetic.
So I continued in my part of the game. It was my temptation each time he re-slid an item to declare the next item would be the last and therefore end my work. I often face this temptation in his games. But I always make myself go one more time and one more time as long as I can take it. But last night I had a minor epiphany.
I realized that I was out here working my large behind off as he still sat on his skinny behind in what, at first glance, looked like an unimportant use of time. He’ll never remember this moment. Never. He’ll remember that he had a fort and that we played in it. He might even remember we played this game on the slide but he’ll not recall this particular moment on this particular night. That’s when it dawned on me that as a father I’m not working for particular moments. Rather, the important things I’m instilling in my son come as a sum of who I am. That all of the less than memorable moments will add up to who I am and make him into who he will be.
The big things in life will never make him who he is; they will only test who he is. As much as we all dream of the exciting moments and wait for life’s large challenges, they won’t be what’s most important. They’ll never define him. They will only prove who he. And who he is will be determined much by my faithful presence in his life; unremembered in the particulars but powerful in its consistency. Predictably present has now become my goal.
This is God with us. We must learn to enjoy the daily struggle that makes us who we are. God stands patiently at the bottom of the slide, working much harder then we, and watching us learn to re-aim. It’s His predictable presence in the ordinary, unremembered moments of life that form in our hearts who He is and will make us into who we are. We’ll be strengthened for the challenges of life that will inevitably test who we are. But success or failure in the large moments will not define us. We’ll already have our definition in His faithful presence. The pressure is off to perform flawlessly. God’s unchanging presence will defend us even to ourselves; in victory or defeat.
So here I stand at the foot of a slide. Playing the game. Presenting a picture of father and of theFather. Forming my son each time I bend to pick up the items. I nest the small cups; six stacked, the smaller in the next larger. I wipe sidewalk chalk dust from my fingers and try to pick up a small blue shoe while avoiding the spit. I can’t find the stick. I realign the large dump truck here at the bottom and hand him the smaller truck. Time to slide again. Aim well, Collin. Practice who you are. I’ll be present to help as long as God wills it to be so.