On Monday I found a gunk swamp at the bottom of the kitchen bin. Something gross had oozed through the trash bag. I stood as far away from the bin as I could and sprayed it out with a hose on the lawn.
My 10-year-old came into the garden – blurted out philosophically –
‘Mom! What would have happened if only Adam had sinned, not Eve? Would the whole human race still be sinful?’
Trying not to get what was squirting out of the bin into my mouth, I told him I reckon if you drink a glass of cyanide, it’ll kill you. And if you drink a glass of half-cyanide, half-freshly-squeezed-organic-orange-juice, it’ll still kill you. Probably if Adam and Eve had still done their one-flesh thing and still had kids, Eve and those kids would’ve gotten half the cyanide from Adam, and history would look much the same.
Then I briefly fantasized about a world in which sinless Eve was not spraying gunk out of her kitchen bin because she had perfect kitchen bin bags that never leaked. At which point I decided I needed a Big Shiny Prize for simultaneously dealing with the bin and the fall of humankind.
Earlier on the day of the disgusting bin incident, a friend with kids younger than mine asked me, ‘How did you teach your boys to share?’ (Because, don’t we all wish there was a pill they could take?)
I told her we taught our boys to share by saying,
‘Share. Share. Share. Stop fighting. Share. Play nice. Share. Share.’
(And they don’t always share.)
I told her that when we started playing board games with them, they were both stomp-off-and-sulk losers. We said,
‘So Help You We Will Play Board Games Every Day Until You Enjoy It And Learn To Lose Graciously Have I Made Myself Clear?’
It’s going better.
But then – same day – a pigeon wandered through the kitchen door in search of dog pellets – flew onto the windowsill – and knocked over all the boys’ Checkers Little Garden biodegradable pride-and-joy sprouting pots of herbs – dismally unearthing them.
Which made me think –
There’s no quick fix for life or parenting. It takes relentless, intentional commitment in the same direction for a very long time, often accompanied by the feeling of making zero progress.
As if someone is unearthing the seeds as fast as you’re planting them.
It can be difficult, boring, overwhelming, frustrating and fantastically fulfilling – all on the same day.
Two things helping me not to cast my eyes heavenward and don my Mom Crown of Martyrdom – on days involving rogue bird invaders, vile kitchen bins, tense board games and phone-Ravi-Zacharias questions – are (1) the perspective of an amazing friend and (2) an Innuit word.
My friend and her family are missionaries in a tough country, under tough circumstances. They’ve made untold sacrifices to be there. But she says that constantly bringing to mind the sacrifice takes her straight to self-pity.
So instead of calling it sacrifice, she calls it obedience.
Sacrifice says, ‘Poor me. This is so unfair. I’m not running my life; my life is running me!’
Obedience says, ‘I could’ve chosen differently, but I’ve chosen this. Now I’ll get on with it.’
Obedience defeats entitlement, and you rediscover gratitude. You’re not a victim on the back foot. You’re empowered, and in a far stronger and more stable position circumstantially and relationally, because you’ve made a proactive – not reactionary – choice – which helps you deal more joyfully with the sacrifices.
I came across the word nuannapoq this week. It’s an Inuit term meaning the extravagant pleasure of being alive.
It’s impossible to feel sorry for ourselves and experience nuannapoq.
But we can be willing, engaged followers of Jesus in a broken world shot through with beauty – doing All The Things with a sense of humour and in happy obedience – and feel extravagantly pleased to be alive.
So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. (Galatians 6:9)
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