Grace is 7 and Gabe is 4. Daniel is 2, but today he was sick, so he stayed home with mom.
That left Grace, Gabe and me to spend the day together.
The plan? A birthday party and a church event.
The birthday party was a blast! Monkey Park is a favorite kids destination and party venue in our town.
When we arrived, we made our way to Pavilion #1 where the party was underway. Turns out there were two parties in Pavilion #1. The mom from Party B had reserved the pavilion and arrived after Party A was already set up. Party B’s party leader graciously allowed Party A to use the left side of the pavilion while they partied it up on the right side.
Turns out Party B had the coolest balloons. Lime green with party hats and streamers drawn in white and a big “Happy Birthday” printed in a really cool font. Not only were they cool party balloons, but they were cool party balloons filled with helium!
GABE LOVED THEM…
… and loved them so much he couldn’t stop bugging me about wanting one!
Those of you who have fathered a child may understand what it feels like to hold your little one in your arms knowing that you haven’t the ability to give him the one thing that would wipe away the tears. I stood there with my boy in my arms as helpless as a fireman trying to explain to a child that he can’t retrieve her favorite pet from the burning house.
THERE WAS NOTHING I COULD DO.
Then there was the church event. MISERABLE… at least for the children. A 2.5 hour recital of the book of John completely from memory! It’s true… all 21 chapters (4,146 verses)!!
Pretty cool if you are an adult, but imagine what it would be like if you were 4 and 7 years old.
For those of you who know me, you know that we’ve chosen to be missionaries where we live and we are no longer connected to the traditional church structures. My kids know God, but they’re not too familiar with the institutional church.
The first question Gabe asked as we sat in the unfamiliar pews in the overwhelming sanctuary was, “Hey, what are these books? It looks like they have music in them.” Then as I passed some change to them and instructed them that it was for the offering plate, Grace piped up with, “Dad, what’s an offering plate?” As you can imagine, heads turned from every direction. Humiliating!
The icing on the cake was that we were with a group and there was no hopping in the car to relieve the kidos.
Two thirds the way through the recitation I decided to take the kids for a walk downtown to give them some time to reboot their systems.
There we were in downtown Columbus, GA, 35 miles from our earlier birthday party venue.
As we walked a block and a half down 12th Street and crossed over 1st avenue, I couldn’t help but to question my spiritual parenting decisions. Had I made the right choice for my family to step out and live missionally? Should they be in a traditional church at 11 AM on Sunday mornings? Shouldn’t they know the difference between a hymnal and an offering plate?
Just as I was wrestling over these questions Gabe yelled out (in a typical 4 year old hyper boy way) “Hey, there’s my balloon!” I looked up and I kid you not, it was a lime green balloon with party hats and streamers drawn in white and a big ‘Happy Birthday’ printed in a really cool font!! The exact same balloon in the guarded possession of the Party A master leader.
Tears welled up in my eyes. “Do you know who gave you that balloon Gabe?” He said in his innocent little boy voice as matter of factly as if it came with absolutely no surprise, “Yep… God did.”
I needed that balloon more than Gabe could ever need it! God spoke deeply into my heart and said, “Chill out Kevin. Obedience modeled to your children is more important than a perfect attendance certificate in the best Sunday School class in the whole wide world. You have chosen well!”
There I was all worried about the fact that my kids didn’t know what an offering plate was and God showed up on 12th and 1st to teach my little boy one of the greatest lessons of his life.
They may not know what a hymnal is for, but they can worship with the best of them. They may not know what to do with their 75 cents when the plate passes, but they know what it means to give to God.