My beloved wife is away on a well-earned break this weekend (if you call walking all day with a pack on your back a ‘break’!), so I am attempting to look after our three children. It did take me a while to get started this morning and while I was preoccupied with having a coffee and reading, a certain amount of mayhem erupted at the other end of the house, requiring my intervention (interpret as ‘kids got yelled at’). The highlight of the morning was taking the kids to the museum and butterfly house. Although, there was usually at least one child not wanting to be doing what the rest of us were, so a certain amount of stress was generated.
Due to me being slow out of the blocks this morning we were a bit late getting to the museum, stayed longer then expected, I forgot to take drink bottles and extra snacks, so by the time we got home it was already lunch time, the kids were hungry but nothing was ready. After some ranting from me about kids not belonging in the kitchen and something about ‘stop nagging’, I started throwing together some pasta and sauce for lunch. In retrospect that was a bit heroic and a can of beans on toast would have been wiser.
The pasta was fine, the sauce, however, was not my best effort. Too much tomato puree, too much mixed herbs and not enough simmering made it ‘sharp’ in taste. Eldest child got the hint after screwing her face up and receiving a comment as sharp as the sauce along the lines of “if you don’t like it, don’t eat it but it’s all you’re getting!”. The younger two were not so compliant. One ended up in bed for his nap with almost no lunch (he did eat all his dinner though!), the other was fed by me despite many grimaces.
After all that I let the girls watch a DVD while I fell asleep, leaving the house a complete mess (which will, of course, be remedied before my hard working wife comes home!). While I slept, Grandma phoned to offer eldest daughter a sleep-over at her house tonight. So dinner was a little calmer with only two children to feed. During dinner I asked our four-year-old whether she had a nice day? With characteristically brutal honesty her reply was, “Umm… No, because you were too grouchy Dad.” Parenting Fail!
What made me so grouchy? The short answer is that stress makes me grouchy and I was getting stressed today. Which obviously raises the question of why was I getting stressed? Basically, conflicting agendas:
There were things I needed to do.
There were things I wanted to do.
There were things the kids wanted me to do.
There were things I needed to be doing so the kids could have what they needed at the right time, but they wanted me to do other things right now which distracted me from what I knew I needed to be doing.
There is what was most important to do.
Guess what didn’t get done?
Earlier this week I was praying, asking God to use me to do His will. As I prayed I caught myself saying, “Father, I want You to change me and use me to build Your kingdom, but…” At that point I think it was the Holy Spirit who poked me and opened my eyes to see the inherent hypocrisy of such a prayer — praying with my own agenda. Prayer fail!
You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.
(James 4:2–3 ESV)
In effect, by having my own agenda as I pray, I am asking for something from God so I can spend it on my own desires. Prayer is a deep and mysterious activity, asking for stuff is only a small aspect of what prayer really is and if asking for stuff is happening so that I can rush off and occupy myself with the stuff while ignoring God then it has become a meaningless exercise. The real meaning in prayer is coming before God.
I mentioned above that I failed to achieve the most important thing today — the most important earthly thing was to connect with my kids and get to know them, letting them know me. The absolutely most important thing was to come before God. Today I failed to achieve either.
Thank you God, that your mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23).