“But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Luke 18:16
I carry around a list in my head of all the things I need to do in a day. Before I had kids, this mental list dictated my day. It kept me focused on all the tasks I needed to complete, and I would methodically move from one to the next until they were done. I call this practice, “sticking with the plan,” and Greg occasionally makes fun of me for it whenever it veers into neuroses.
My children, on the other hand, could not care less about “sticking with the plan.”
Much of “the plan” even revolves around them these days: fixing their breakfasts, packing their lunches, playing with them, helping with homework, etc. And yet, there are also those pesky other things that must be done: quiet time, laundry, mopping, cooking, emailing, budgeting, errand-running, and so forth. My kids are not always on board with that other list. And frankly, that’s not always a bad thing. In fact, their indifference has managed to get me to do something that all of my husband’s loving jabs could not: cultivate the discipline to break from the plan when needed.
My children have taught me that sometimes a tea party is more important than a mopped floor, and that curling up with two babies and a pile of books can and should be the first priority of many days. They have taught me that most of my tasks are really not that important at all, and certainly not too important to be interrupted several times to take care other others.
And they have taught me to watch birds.
A couple of days ago, I was walking from the family room to the bedrooms, probably carrying a pile of items to be distributed to rooms along the way, when I caught sight of Luke sitting on the living room floor, gazing out the window. He was situated between the glass and the sheer white curtain, just a gauzy outline of a five year old. Out of amused curiosity, I stopped and asked him what he was doing.
“Oh, just looking at the birds. Do you want to come watch?”
It was a question whose answer held a strangely moral dimension for me that day. My mental list had been very prominent in my thinking, and I had been zipping through it, check-check-checking things off. And yet, suddenly, watching birds seemed like more than a suggestion; it seemed like the right thing to do.
“Yes, buddy. I’d love to.”
And so I settled in behind the curtain, cross-legged against the glass, and watched the crows fly from tree to tree. I watched a blue jay chatter on a branch, and smaller birds zip in between “the cord lines,” as Luke calls the telephone wires. We laughed together at each unexpected flight and each avian interaction, wondering aloud what the birds were saying to each other. I totally forgot what it was that I was supposed to be doing, and can’t remember even now, because I knew somehow that I was doing something that mattered so much more.
I was looking at the birds of the air and realizing that they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet my heavenly Father feeds them. Are Luke and Anna and Greg and I…are we all…not much more valuable than they?
Sitting there, I was thankful to a God who not only took care of birds, but who gave this overly-driven mama a kindergartner who was delighted by them. I remembered fondly how, even at less than a year old, he would be fixated by the smallest outline of a winged creature flying through the sky. We would laugh at the way he would ignore all of the large, bright toys we were waving in his face to point and grunt excitedly at the pinprick of a bird so far overhead that we adults had missed it.
Back at the window, we remained contentedly gazing at the birds for well past the normal attention span of a five year old. It was a cold, gray and gloomy day. The sun was gone, it was too wet to play outside, and in my mind, the coloring of the day could best be described as “dismal.” After sitting and watching the birds for a good, long while, Luke and I decided to play with his Toy Story characters, which really excited him. Still, he could barely stand to wrench himself away from the window, sighing, “It’s just such a beautiful day.”
And I looked out the window again…and realized that it was.
Sometimes it’s so easy to see why the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.
How do your children–or any children–draw you closer to God?