Imperfect Parenthood, Messy Worship

“Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.” (Mark 10:15)

Wendy and I have been reading a wonderful book called “Sacred Parenting”, and it talks about how raising children shapes our soul. There’s a wonderful story in the section entitled “Imperfect Parents” in the chapter which talks about dealing with guilt feelings in being a parent. But I thought it was also a great story that relates to worship. Here’s the excerpt:

A young father followed the same routine every evening: He went into the kitchen, opened a cupboard, and took out a glass. He then walked over to a cupboard, pulled out a cookie jar, took two or three cookies, and put them on a plate. Then he’d go to the refrigerator, get some milk, and pour himself a tall glass. Following that he’d walk into the living room and enjoy his milk and cookies while sitting in his favorite chair.

One evening as he was heading into the kitchen for his nightly ritual, the father noticed his three-year-old son heading into the kitchen ahead of him. The boy had a determined look on his face. Instead of announcing his presence, the father decided to stay unobserved so that he could watch what his son seemed so determined to do.

The boy pulled out several drawers, essentially making steps so he could climb onto the counter – something he was forbidden to do. Next he walked across the counter (another no-no) and opened an upper cupboard door. He reached in and pulled out a glass, knocking over several other glasses in the process. The young boy placed his glass down, hopped off the counter, then picked up his glass, and put it on the floor. He marched over to the refrigerator and pulled out the milk, then poured it into the glass. The flowing milk proved too strong for his little hands, and it spilled over the top of the glass. The little boy wiped up the spilled milk with his shirt.

Then he left the milk, walked over to another cupboard, and pulled out a cookie jar. This was strictly forbidden; the father’s son knew he wasn’t supposed to get cookies without permission. But he reached in and while doing so pulled several other cookies out of the jar. The boy put them back and wiped up the crumbs with his now milk-soaked shirt.

The father stepped out to intercept his son, only to be greeted by a huge smile. “Here are your cookies, Dad. I love you.”

In this story I want you to place yourself in the son’s position, not the dad’s. We’re the little child, trying to serve our heavenly Father and yet making a lot of messes in the process. We can’t reach as high as we’d like, so we make do with makeshift steps to reach the counter. We knock over a few glasses, and we spill the milk while we’re trying to prepare a drink. Lacking all wisdom, we come up with the great idea of cleaning up the mess with our shirt instead of with a washcloth. But what dad wouldn’t feel touched by such a display of service, however messy it might be?

We’re not the best parents, not by far. We don’t have all the wisdom we’d like. We don’t understand how everything fits together. We make mistakes, we make messes, we can do everything wrong – but God looks at us with a Father’s delighted eyes. Where we see weakness, God sees humility. Where we see messes, God sees intent. Where we see failings, God sees motives. And he smiles. He takes us into his arms. And he laughs a delighted Father’s laugh.

In the same way, God sees us being messy little children trying to worship Him. But amidst our messiness and imperfection, if we serve God with a child-like heart, He will be pleased.

Being a parent now, I have to remember I’m not perfect, and I should not try to be god to little Chase. My parenthood will be messy and imperfect, but thank God that He looks primarily at my heart.