Gardening

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My wife has been laid up for a week recovering from surgery, and her mom drove up from Ralph, Alabama to help out. Of course, “help out” pretty much meant, “do everything.”

Amy was in the bed, and I was slammed with two church services in one week on top of my typically hectic schedule when Grandmama checked in and took over like Michael Jordan. Family dirty laundry disappeared into the morning mist. The children received nourishment and attention, but not from me. “What happened to the mini-van?” Grandmama got out the shopvac and had her way till the Sienna cried mercy, and then she put it in a figure-four leg-lock. Now all the turn signals work.

On Monday, I came home from a meeting and went inside to check in. To the tune of every child’s anti-melody, I hear my son:

“You are a stooormtrooooper, but where is your maaaask? The diiiiinasaurs are coming and they are so aaaaangry.”

Then, from the window of Jonah’s room, I watched Grandmama pulling apart clumps of monkeygrass, planting each one in a row to border our front yard landscaping. This is too much. I leave Jonah to his time-defying musical and go grab my gloves.

Together, Grandmama and I raked aside the old mulch. We spread out and cut the black mesh groundcover until we reached two old thorny bushes that Amy detests. I got out my shovel.

About this time, my 5 year old boy bangs open the front screen door and carefully rushes down the porch stairs. He hollers, “Woah woah woah, dad! Wait for me!” In his raised right hand, I saw the the tiny orange shovel that came with his Home Depot tool set. Jonah, watching from his window, had seen me with my huge red shovel, and hatched a grand idea.

He tiptoed through and still trampled over the monkey grass and planted his shovel in the dirt beside the thorny shrub. “Oh, that’s great, dad!” And one tiny scoop was partially displaced. This went on for one or two minutes, and then he found the scissors and began to trim the grass in the front yard. I finished pulling out the shrubbery, Grandmama and I spread out the mulch, and we were all finished in time for dinner.

Later, this passing scene struck me as hugely significant. My son did not consider his own usefulness, rather, he was overcome with the desire to experience that moment with his dad.

As an adult interacting with other adults, this kind of behavior would be entirely inappropriate. Mature human beings do not impulsively join others in any activity without some kind of preparation or self-awareness. But as a son interacting with his father, it doesn’t get any better, especially on those rare occasions when I see past the task at hand and enjoy my son regardless of his performance.

There are people in my life who are supposed to love me no matter what. I want those people to care for me no matter how I act. If my actions need critiquing, I need to first know that I am loved. Not just nominally, but truly loved and accepted in that moment. Otherwise I am either crushed and defeated, or newly inspired to ramp up the effort to please. Both responses are evidence of a misunderstanding of the Gospel, but I reinforce that misunderstanding in my kids when I see their behavior first, and them second… which I am prone to do.

Thank God for the faith and resilience of children!


16 Comments

  1. Peter B

    Dang. This sounds like it should be really simple, but I can tell my brain is going to have to chew on it for a while.

    Also, thank God for crazy grandmothers! They certainly are amazing.

  2. Allison

    What a great story, Randall.

    “My son did not consider his own usefulness, rather, he was overcome with the desire to experience that moment with his dad.”

    How often do I try to make myself useful to my Heavenly Father when all I should be doing is enjoying that moment with my Dad?

    P.S. Grandmamas are fantastic. Especially Grandmamas from Alabama, I think. How do they know JUST what to do to restore order and beauty to a home? 😉

  3. erik

    Your post really blessed me this morning. I found that as a kid, I wasn’t really invited to partake in projects around the house. They were really for adults. Then I grew up and now feel incompetent when it comes to home improvement projects around the house. So as a father of 3 little boys, I am always cognizant of the times when they want to “help” me with projects. I refuse to deny them and I found (as you have) that it only brings us closer.

  4. Drew

    “I found that as a kid, I wasn’t really invited to partake in projects around the house. They were really for adults. Then I grew up and now feel incompetent when it comes to home improvement projects around the house.”

    Erik, thanks for that. I feel pretty much the same way. I, too, feel incompetent to take on these sorts of home projects, probably because my dad never did these sorts of things either. He would always hire someone. (This is in stark contrast to my wife, whose motto is “I can do that!” whether it’s painting a room or building a deck.)

    But now I want to make sure that we involve our kids in all our projects, so they’ll feel confident in their abilities. How this relates to just spending time with our heavenly father — I’m sure there’s a connection there. Anyone care to dig? Something about gaining confidence? : )

  5. Stacy Grubb

    I think most every parent worth their salt would agree that we tend to learn more from our children than we could ever empart on them. Perhaps it’s due in large to their unaffected approach to life. They haven’t learned to use the types of filters that we, as adults, use to be prudent, conscious, polite, mature, etc. I spent 23 years forming my filters before I had my son and I’ve spent the last 3 trying to clean out the ones that, I realized, had become so clogged that they just dammed up everything, including what I should’ve been allowing through. Enthusiasm for the simple things, for example.

    Different ages have all these categories: Birth – 2, you’re an Infant: 2-4, you’re a Toddler, then Pre-school, Pre-Teen, blah blah blah, etc. I think there should be another one esepcially for the age of 3 called Helper. I’ve learned that 3 years old is a golden age where children have a burning desire to be of service. No matter what you’re doing or how mundane the task, they don’t just want to help you do it – they live to help you do it. “You’re washing dishes? WOW! Can I help?!?!” “Can I fold clothes with you?!?!!?” “Can I help you cook dinner?!” I often joke when people ask me how my little one is doing that, “He’s 3…I can’t do anything with him and I can’t do anything for him!” He’s establishing indepenance and free will, and it’s often a thorn in my side since that means he wants to defy every rule in the book.

    Symbolically, I see many similarities between my relationship with my child and Christ’s relationship with me as His child. But the biggest difference is that, as the mother of my son, my service to him is to teach him to eventually cut the apron strings so that he may go out and be productive without my help. We’ve already cut a few. He can dress himself (more or less – he went to church with his sweater on backwards recently and his underwear was inside-out all day yesterday), use a fork, communicate, etc. There was certainly a time when those things were just an impossibility. As children of Christ, however, we are closer to Him by keeping the ties that bind strong. We want our children to learn how to do and fend for themselves. As Christ’s children, we learn to allow him to do through us.

    By watching my son, I’ve learned that perhaps I need to go through my filters and clean out whichever one became so clogged that I lost that “desire to be of service” that I likely had as a 3 year old, myself. Wanting to be of service will, in turn, open the door for Christ to live through me.

    That’s likely a bunny trail off the path of the original post because I feel like I rambled and kind of frolicked off in my own direction. So, I’m going to just end this with “and stuff,” as is my all-encompassing phrase that serves to fill in the holes.

    Stacy

  6. Dan K

    I’m struck by how much in our creative efforts (attempts at art) we are children with a plastic shovel full of dirt compared to the handiwork of the Creator.

  7. Stacy Grubb

    Dan,

    I know what you mean by that, but I also think that the intent inside the art is what can make one piece more beautiful than another. It’s like the little pictures that our children color for us. Most of them wouldn’t impress folks in an art exhibit, but they are beautiful to us because the little hearts, flowers, homes, and stick men they draw represent how much they love us. Even though we will never be able to create something as intricate as even a germ that God has created, what we *can* do is received by our Father based on intent. Music, paintings, sculptures, stories, films, etc, can all be expressions of our love and faith and therein lies the beauty. Maybe He’s even got a super huge fridge to hang them all on.

    Stacy

  8. Dan K

    I completely agree, sorry if that wasn’t clear. I wasn’t trying to discourage artistic efforts at all, more struck that we are even able to dable with such things.

  9. Randall Goodgame

    @randallgoodgame

    Drew said: How this relates to just spending time with our heavenly father — I’m sure there’s a connection there. Anyone care to dig? Something about gaining confidence? : )

    My own experience, along with verses like Matthew 6:25-34, convict me of the same thing Allison said in her comment. I miss out on the deeper joy of relationship with my Father when I get caught up in how I’m performing in this life – whether concerning some dark sin issue or how much I pray or read the Bible. I don’t enjoy life as much or love others as well when I forget to rest in the fact that I already have God’s favor because of Christ.

    My son reminded me of the reckless trust with which I long to view God.

  10. Steve Narrow

    My children are all grown; 25, 23 and 20 and away from home. Yet the sweetest word ever spoken is still dad. From the time they could speak until now, I love hearing my children say dad. As it must be with our Father in Heaven who, in the person of Jesus, changed our very address from a name we dare not speak (Yahweh) to Abba (daddy). I pray the He loves to hear me call Him DAD as much as I adore it from my children.

    How great it is to know my Abba. Thank you Jesus!

  11. Mike

    Today after doing a little yard work ourselves my son Zeke who’s 6 finally talked me on to the trampoline. Our game is that he runs around the edge while I sit in the middle and try to trip him up. Today some money fell out of my pocket; thirty five cents I think. I had four quarters, two dimes and a penny in change and two one dollar bills. When he saw the money THAT became our game. If he could get it from me he could have it. After all the change was gone, (he put it in a cup outside the trampoline net) I put the dollar bills up. When it was all his he threw some change back. “You know why dad” he said. “Cause this is fun” It never was about the money for him although he knows that with a few bucks he can buy another Ben10 Alien figure. It was about the contact, the laughing, the love. If God really is Papa, and I’m staking my life on it, then he feels what I felt and if we could feel what Zeke felt it would change everything.

  12. tom

    Man, it’s all about participation.
    Randall, Mr. Goodgame, sir – I think you’ve painted a beautiful picture of the relationship we’ve been brought into with our Creator.
    My daughter (4 yrs. old) begged my wife to help her wash the dishes the other day. We pulled up a chair, gave her a rag and let her make a big sloppy mess of the kitchen and herself – giggling the whole time. As my wife and I watched and laughed, we both knew we would have to clean up the mess and re-wash those dishes, but it was our joy to let her join her mom in doing the work.
    God, our Father, is doing amazing things all around us. He is showing His love to people, He is spreading His good news throughout the earth and convincing people of the Truth, and we get to “help”. Do we make a big sloppy mess of things sometimes? Most of the time is more like it, but isn’t it just a blast getting to join Him in His work? And I truly believe He gets a kick out of watching us, even if we stumble our way through.
    We’re not expected to do a perfect job. I wonder if we’re really “expected” to do a thing. We’re invited by “Abba” Father to come plant some flowers, work on the car, feed the hungry, cut the grass, help the widows, weed the garden, look after the orphans, wash the dishes…..WITH HIM!
    THIS is abundant life.

  13. Aaron Roughton

    Of course this is a great reminder to me that I don’t have to be all put together and useful as I approach my Heavenly Father. But it also reminded me that I don’t have to be all put together and useful to my kids as they approach me. I have played Mike’s trampoline game many times (without throwing cash into the mix). But as many times as I’ve played, it’s a tiny fraction of the amount of times I’ve been asked to play by one of my kiddos. I picture myself planning a fantastic educational experience for the kids while one of them tugs at my shirt. I say, “Leave me be…Can’t you see I’m planning something magnificent for you?” I can’t believe I have to be reminded to just engage. Boopie that’s frustrating.

  14. Mike

    Yeah, Aaron, most often its the exception rather than the rule. But if I spent as much time doing what Zeke wanted to do I’d never get anything done. Sometimes spending time with Papa is doing His work and not what I want. Its those times that He’s planning something educational for me that cause me to grow.

  15. Aaron Roughton

    “Sometimes spending time with Papa is doing His work and not what I want.” Wonderful point in both directions (me looking up and me looking down). Not only do I not have to be all put together and useful, it’s actually possible to engage with my kids while doing my necessary stuff…not just during playtime. As for the other direction, I actually wrote a song about it sitting at my desk at work (engineer) a couple of years ago titled (aptly) What I Want. What I really want is for what He wants to be what I want. Now if I can just figure out how to grow without growing pains…

  16. Mike

    Spurgeon (I’m almost certain and I am paraphrasing) once said, that if he could do what he wanted to do it would be exactly what God wanted him to do. The problem came with self and being stuck doing what he didn’t want to do.

    “Now if I can just figure out how to grow without growing pains”

    Don’t figure out how to grow, just grow. I posted a question on another site the other day about sanctification. I’ve been told recently that justification was all God, and that glorification was all God but that sanctification was me and God. The message was on spiritual disciplines; prayer, worship, meditation, fasting, etc. and the point was that if I practice these spiritual disciplines then I would grow. I disagree. I believe that if we know who we are in Christ then the disciplines will happen naturally. I believe that sanctification is all God too. We grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ. We are simply the branches. We bear fruit not produce it. Thats the work of the Vine.

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