Our house is small. We are not Little House on the Prairie, kids and parents all in one bedroom type small, but we are close. And so, as with most small spaces, sounds carry, voices carry, the hushed conspiratorial whispers of my children plotting their next mischievous adventure – it all carries from one end of the house to the next. Which makes it all the more annoying to me when my oldest son comes charging from his bedroom to announce to me whatever his siblings are or are not doing.
I know, Alex, I know. (I want to say.)
But he is at the age of justice, of black and white and right and wrong and why isn’t my three year old brother put in time out for the same things that I am?
On Saturday morning, he came to me as I was working at the sink – just to be sure that I was aware that Lila wasn’t cleaning their bedroom. I’m the only one cleaning, he harrumphed and laid his head on the counter I was in the process of wiping down. And she’s just playing on the floor.
I know, Alex. I know.
Alex, I said, stop keeping a tally of what she’s doing wrong and just focus on yourself. You’re not cleaning right now either, you’re whining.
Alex slunk back down from the counter and dragged his feet to the bedroom. I stood at the kitchen sink with a wet sponge in my hand, feeling the weight of my very own words, there, pressing on my own heart. It was one of those moments when I realized that I really ought to subtitle this blog: God Speaks to Me Through My Children.
Stop keeping a tally of what other people are doing and just focus on yourself.
How can something so simple, so, your-parents-drill-it-into-you-in-elementary-school easy, be so hard for adults to grasp? And I’m not talking about the brash adults or the rude ones, the know-it-all’s or the jerks. I’m talking about good people, sweet, well meaning people. If I’m being honest, I’m probably even talking about myself. I don’t think that I walk around with an eye or a heart seeking out others doing wrong, and yet, God pricked at my heart with the very words I spoke to my son.
Focus on your own life, on your own purpose, on serving God and doing His will, regardless of whether there is anyone else with you to carry the load.
Quite honestly, if we’re spending any time at all ogling and clucking our tongues at other people’s faults, failures, shortcomings, short skirts, poor choices, sinful hearts, we’re being useless to the kingdom anyway.
And, I just can’t seem to find the Bible verse that tells me to tattle (or withhold friendship, or ignore, or make a spectacle of by holding hurtful protest signs, declaring the wrath of my God on someone, anyone, regardless of anything they have done.)
Because, truth is, we’re all in this together. We are all siblings in a great big house, where our voices carry from one room to the next and our God already knows, long before we even have the words formed in our mouths – He knows.
I try to assure my own children that I am well aware of what goes on in our house, that I hear (without being told by my resident tattler) when someone is not doing as they should, or that I notice when good deeds are done – whether they receive their punishment or reward immediately or not, I am aware.
Oh, but I love my children, with their sneaky whispers and occasional plots to overtake the house. I love Alex and his grumbling over fairness and justice, and Lila with her stubborn, wild heart. I love Asher and Evie with all of their boundary pushing, wrapped in innocence and chubby-cheeked smiles. I love them in spite of anything that they have done or anything that they might ever do.
And God? He is in the same small world as me - hears the same hushed whispers, the same conspiratorial plots. And if He’s anything like me with my kids, He smiles at the childlike nature of our hearts, at how we think He’s somehow unaware. That we think we can get away with anything at all.
He loves us and opens Himself up for us, regardless of the ugliness of our own hearts or the messes in our own bedrooms.
Can’t you just feel the freedom in that? The release in knowing that those lists of right and wrong and who deserves what punishment, it’s all nonsense to us – and at the very core, it’s just plain none of our business.
It’s a small house with thin walls, God knows.
I’ve got my own counters to clean and laundry to fold.