My husband and I were deep in the midst of a comatose-like sleep in the early hours following first light when I faintly heard the light clanking sound. It had been a long night following a long weekend of camping with our two li'l arrows. We'd been awakened three times - twice to the sound of our CO detector chirping (bad batteries!) and once to the sound of Cindy Lou Who needing help with her sheets 'cause she'd had an accident. In my sleepy-stupor, I assumed the light clankity-clank was the sound of dishes but drifted back to sleep before that thought aroused any anxiety within me. Soon after, we awakened to the sound of our bedroom door popping open as a shaggy brown-headed boy with the longest eyelashes you've ever seen moseyed into our room. He gave us hugs and good morning love, and then proceeded to inform us about all the deeds he'd been up doing. I wasn't surprised, but rather delighted, as a lot of our recent "talks" have centered around responsibility, chores, and taking initiative. Somewhere in his list-of-pride I heard the words "set the table and made breakfast". My heart smiled while my nerves cringed. I quickly gave my self a self-talk and reminded said self that initiative was more important than perfection. Or a clean kitchen. (which, I might add, had been cleaned just before going to bed.) His father and I gave him verbal praise and encouraged him with words of affirmation. Our son smiled broadly and went on about his morning. And a few minutes later my husband and I were both up and starting down the hall. That sweet, seven-year-old boy had indeed done many helpful things all of his own accord - made beds (yes, plural!), let our dogs out, dressed himself, etc. But the one that touched me the most was breakfast. He had set the table (with our good dishes, not our breakfast dishes) and had done it "fancy style". You see, we have two ways of setting the table. #1 - just getting the dishes and utensils to the table. #2 - Fork on the left atop a napkin, knife on the right, spoon next to that, and plate in the middle. He had chosen the latter. Each place setting had a FULL, LARGE cup of that person's favorite beverage (hubby had sweet tea for breakfast!). And atop each plate was a pop-tart and a slice of the banana bread I'd made the night before (carb loading!). The bread slices appeared to have been cut with a jig saw - disfigured, misshapen, crumbly - so I followed the trail of bread crumbs back to the kitchen. I was relieved to find no jig saw knife anywhere, but instead a dull butter knife next to what remained of the loaf. I turned to look at that tan, handsome kid and noticed his look of pride as he gestured with a Vanna White-like wave to show me where my chair was.
And that was when it hit me. Is this how God feels? We children- who love Him deeply and want to serve in His Kingdom - we do our best with our finite resources and our human limitations to love with all our heart, soul, and mind. We take what we know and combine it with what we are capable of doing and ask His blessing. We.Try.So.Hard! And then we step back, to admire our work and to await the praise of our loving Father. Then He - who loves us more than life itself - blesses our efforts (He gives the increase!), and continually showers us with grace upon grace. He continues to call us into His service and chooses to use us, in spite of our short comings and failures. He.Delights.In.Us! In that moment, I was reminded that the weight is not on us to achieve perfection or to do our tasks exactly as a perfect, omniscient God would do. After all, even our best efforts are still like jig sawed banana bread slices. Paul says in the New Testament that our righteousness is as filthy rags, and that we are saved by grace through faith, not by our works so that no one can brag on themselves. Jesus is our righteousness! It is not because of what we do that make us His beloved; it's because of who we are: blood-bought souls whom He redeemed through the sacrifice of His very Son. Now we can give our best efforts, not in order to seek His approval (we're already approved!), but because we are crazy in love with the Lover of our souls and His love compels us to action. No, it's not our attempts at perfection that make Him smile. God is interested in our hearts - eager to be obedient, passionate about His Kingdom, and joyful to serve others.
And with that realization, I sat in my chair, which now felt more like a throne. The royal family joined me and we clasped our hands to pray. I thanked our King for little hands eager to serve, for the "feast" before us, and for the gift of the day ahead. With the close of an 'Amen', we began to eat our royal vittles...one crumb at a time.