I think the reason God has to say it to me over and over is because I'm so hardheaded. And stubborn. And unwilling to submit. Great qualities to have when you are a mule, or a triathlete, or a Republican. Not so much when you are a child of God.
AWANAs is the perfect example.
For those of you who aren't familiar with it, AWANAs is an acronym which stands for Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed, derived from 2 Timothy 2:15, "Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth". The mission of AWANAs is to help churches and parents raise children to know, love, and serve Jesus. It's a once-weekly, hour-and-a-half youth program which Aria absolutely L-O-V-E-S. They have storytime, sing songs, make crafts, have group exercise, and, believe it or not, learn Bible verses. Essentially, it is mini- Vacation Bible School every Wednesday. And she adores it.
The kicker is, for your child to attend AWANAs, one parent has to volunteer once a month to be a helper in the classroom, and guess what, I'm that volunteering parent. And with a classroom of 18 three-year-olds, half of them boys, my particular AWANAs night is all about wrangling those boys. The girls sit nicely in a circle with folded hands listening to the teacher or singing the songs, while the boys are everywhere: climbing up on the tables, beating each other with Bibles, breaking into the snack cabinet, tripping each other, sneaking out of the room. It is straight up exhausting. My first night after volunteering, I came home and threw myself on the couch, and declared, "Chris Thomas! I'm so glad we have GIRLS!" I really did, I got on my knees that night and THANKED GOD for my sweet, well-behaved, calm GIRLS. I was more tired after two hours in AWANAs than I sometimes am after working 24 hours at the hospital. It was that draining.
And the whole night, between cleaning spills and wiping crayon marks off the walls and pulling brawling boys off one another, I'm thinking, why am I here? I'm really just an unpaid babysitter. What's the point?
I know, I know! Where's my happy heart, right? My Obedience?
I will say, it has become slightly more tolerable little by little each month. Maybe the kids are more in a routine now, or maybe I walk into that classroom a little more prepared for the mini-tornadoes with Y chromosomes, but either way, it doesn't seem as chaotic as of late.
Which is how I noticed little Jeremy (no, of course not his real name).
Jeremy is a beautiful, sweet child who is significantly less dynamic than the other boys, and for this, I think he has a behavioral disorder on the autism spectrum. Okay, that's not why. I'm claiming limited expertise in this area, believe me, but he does have enough of the characteristics that I know I'm not wrong about it: unable to make eye contact, minimal verbal skills, playing alone, often standing in a corner rocking back and forth, inability to follow simple commands, flapping his arms, becoming overwhelmed in a crowd.
So naturally, I decide to make it my personal mission that Jeremy feels the love of God every Wednesday between 6:30 and 8:00 pm. This child will be welcomed and cherished and included when he walks in the door to his AWANAs class. I will hold his hand and help him make the crafts, I will teach him the songs, we will say the Bible verses over and over if we have to. I will do my best to share Jesus with him, maybe not so much verbally but with care and love. Maybe he gets this love and attention all day long at home, but what if he doesn't? He probably does, but what if? What if, by chance, this is the only time this child will experience God's grace, this one hour a week on a Wednesday?
So is this my obedience lesson? To befriend and love this child who is harder to connect with? Maybe. Or maybe just learning to honor Him by honoring my commitments, even if it means herding
My mother forwarded this story to me last week, a story on Obedience (see? It's everywhere).
I have a high school friend who is a missionary and recently attended an evangelical conference in South Africa. He heard this story at his conference and passed it along to the pastoral staff at my parents' church.
A Muslim Background Believer (MBB) from Saudi Arabia (yes, Saudi Arabia) stood and told the story of a friend of his and his wife driving through Iran. They were local MBBs. Pulling into a gas station, the man looked up to see a bearded soldier leaning against a wall with a gun. The wife turned to her husband and said, "You need to give that man a Bible." The husband responded that he did not think it was "wisdom" to do so as the man looked very religious and had a gun. His wife looked at him and said, "I don't care, I think you are supposed to do it." The man went into the gas station and returned with some water and pulled out of the gas station. His wife turned to him, "You didn't give him a Bible, did you?" Quite upset the man retorted, "It was a terrible idea!"
The wife began to pray aloud, "Oh Lord, on the great day of judgement may that soldier's blood be on the head of my husband and not on mine."
[Sah-nap! Don't you just love that part?]
Immediately the husband slammed on the brakes and wheeled the car around back to the gas station.
He gingerly approached the man with the gun, "Sir, please take this book." The gunman looked up with tears in his eyes and said, "I had a dream I was supposed to come to this gas station and stand here until someone brought me the book of life. I have been waiting here three days, THANK YOU SIR, THANK YOU!!"
The soldier gave his life to Christ. Five years later the soldier was martyred for his faith.
THAT was obedience.
Our Sunday School teacher this week told of a story he heard from a visiting pastor who spoke at a prayer breakfast our teacher attended last week. The visiting pastor is the father of five children, two of whom are adopted. One of the adopted children was an older boy from The Philippines, whom they named David.
The pastor tells of the first week they were home with David, and every morning he would wake up and find himself looking into the deep brown eyes of his new son. David would take his new father's face in his hands and say excitedly, "Father, today I am going to be a good son for you!" In response, the pastor would take David's face in his own hands and say, "Son, today I am going to be a good father for you".
Waking up every day and saying to my Lord, "Heavenly Father, today I am going to be a good daughter for you".
Yes, even if it's scraping Play Doh off the blue berber one Wednesday a month...