You’re Doing a Good Job

You’re doing a good job. Better than you think. Better than the voices in your head care to admit. Because it’s not about going faster, doing more things, fitting into that dress, or cleaning the house and the garage and trimming the yard so everything looks perfect for this upcoming weekend–it’s about grace. It’s about people. It’s about who you are in God’s eyes and not what you’ve done or who society says you are or what you want to accomplish.

Oliver has been praying out loud and he talks to God and to Jesus and to the Holy Spirit. When Teresa asked him if the Holy Spirit talks back, Ollie said yes. What does he say to you? Teresa asked. Oliver grinned. “He says, ‘You’re a good boy!'” We all smiled. Then Oliver turned to me. “And to Daddy he says, ‘Good job!'” Everything blurred as I reached for my napkin.

With all of the negative self-talk in our heads, it might take a two-year-old interpreting the Holy Spirit for us to hear what God really thinks about us. Look at the newspapers and you’ll hear one narrative. Go through the checkout and see the Photoshopped models next to the rows of candy porn and hit “pause”–how many times have you seen those covers and felt great about your day? About your life? There are highly-paid, highly-skilled people whose only job in life is to design advertisements that make you hate yours.

You’re doing a good job. Not a perfect job, of course, not a Better Homes and Gardens job, not a Mom of the Year or Medal of Honor job, but a good job. Maybe even a great job. With all of that crap in your past? With all of those medications you’re on? With those size jeans and the muffin top and the crow’s feet, you’re doing a good job. There are people who love you. There are people who need you. God put you in this place in this time in this body to live joyfully and to serve others. Jen Hatmaker or Dakota Meyer or Stephen Curry couldn’t do your job better than you. Receive God’s grace. Settle down into his arms. It’s going to be a great weekend. You’re doing a good job.

Just ask Oliver.

The Gift of Trials

Paging through my Greely High School yearbook I can find three or four places where friends wrote that I was “sweet.” I remember reading those passages in 1999 and thinking to myself, “Friend, how right you are.”

Today I read those lines and feel something quite different. I was always a sensitive boy, but for many years I wore my sensitivity around a rotten core of bigoted self-righteousness that judged my neighbor and threw him under the bus in order to prop up my own deflated ego. Today I feel less “sweet” than at any time in my life. But I also feel more real, more resilient, more open, and less brittle. If I could choose to spend a night around a campfire with my 18-year-old self or the bald guy in today’s mirror, there is no comparison.

But the road to significant change runs long and broken.

To get there requires something I dislike. When I look at my personal history, the times I changed the most were the times at the end of a period of suffering. One of those periods lasted twenty-five years. The moment I was freed from that trial, my worldview shifted so radically I still feel myself reeling, six years later. In some respects, this new life seems too good to be true.

Times of testing come to sift my heart and to show me what I’m made of. The point is never to make me feel secure in my own ability to overcome a trial, but to make me depend more upon God. And the closer I walk with him, the more I can become like him.

I love comfort as much as anyone–please Jesus, bring seasons of abundance!–but I also want to change. And while God is too kind to leave me unhelped in my suffering, he is too good to leave me unchanged in my comfort. So I welcome the trials that come.

The Gift of Slowness

This morning I rushed to get my boys out of their car seats so I could rush into a hardware store before rushing off to get groceries. Oliver dragged his feet and I snapped at him. There was no reason for my urgency–we had plenty of time to do the little I had assigned before Josiah’s nap time. But there were boxes to check on my index card and I knew I’d feel better with money spent and tasks accomplished. Lost in the shuffle were a little boy’s feelings and the simple joy of watching small children act like children.

I have noticed that most of the frustration I feel with my boys occurs when their lives and needs intrude on my task list. I am more patient with childishness and misbehavior–more ready to give grace or to gently apply consequences–when I feel rested or realize there is space and time to live in the moment without the pressure of unchecked boxes on a list of errands and chores I have created for myself.

Perhaps today I can shift my focus more toward people and less on things. Perhaps I can look at my boys and love them more for who they are and not for how long they napped or how little maintenance they required while I solved all the problems of my narrow world. I have heard there is richness in relationships. I have heard there is joy in people and events. The life of a child is a life full of wonder. I would like to borrow some of that joy, let it soak down deep and make me nice to be around.

Maybe today’s task list is to destroy my task list. Maybe I will find myself surprised by joy with the simple, slow activity of living life with small children. It will wreak havoc with my productivity. My inner “manager” will have a fit. No matter. I’ll talk to my Supervisor and take a vacation day. I’ve heard that the owner of the world is fond of children. I think I’ll invite him along.