Last week I went grocery shopping for my family, walking into the house I asked my daughter if she wanted to help me unload groceries. Her response was, “No, Daddy I don’t want to.” Undaunted by this rebuff I posed the question a second time only this time I asked, “Would you please help me?” Hoping to appeal to her love for me and her desire to do something nice for daddy. Again, the response was, “No, I don’t think so.” I decided to ask one final time and I said, “Sweetie, I could really use your help.” Unfortunately, she still brushed me aside. At this point that her mother looked at her and said, “Your dad needs your help and it would be nice of you to help him.” So, somewhat grudgingly she assented to helping me unload groceries. She walked out grabbed a couple bags and carried them in for me; to her surprise and joy she found a bag of caramel creams in one of the bags and was allowed to have one as a treat for helping.
In reality, I didn’t need her help at all, there were not many bags and I could have managed them in two trips. When she consented to helping me I intentionally gave her the bag with the candy. In fact, the only reason I really insisted on having her help me was, so I could give her that candy (I have a soft spot for caramel creams and wanted to enjoy one with her). I eventually want her to see the joy in helping others. She must understand that there is a reward in looking at the person you love when you ease their burden. That we can derive pleasure from seeing the toil melt from a loved one’s face. But, this is a long and difficult lesson, something she will not pick up in the first or second or, probably, tenth time she is taught. That is why I took the baby step of a placing a reward in the bag. Not a reward for her alone, but one we could share together. As I opened the bag I had to say a genuine, “Thank you.” To her because she gave me something I wanted. She could watch me enjoy the candy as she also enjoyed it.
Does God work like this? Does God ask us to participate with him in small tasks just to teach us about love, and if so, do we say yes to helping? I wonder how many times God has put a small task in my way to see if I would be faithful to loving, and how often did I like my daughter say, “No, Daddy I don’t want to.”
Perhaps the opportunity pray for a person was meant for me to discover the joy of helping and loving. Perhaps there was a secret gift hidden in sending a card or making a phone call, perhaps not. Perhaps God is right now calmly and patiently trying to get me to help with something which I am ignoring.
Maybe what I need is what my daughter needed, someone to point out the need to listen to the Father. In the story my wife new no more about the caramels than my daughter did, all she understood was that Dad (a person my daughter loves) wanted her, specifically her, to help with something. She knew that helping would be beneficial maybe for me, maybe for my daughter, but good would come from helping. Perhaps, this is the person I need, someone who loves the Father as much (or more) than I do who will be able and willing to help me do what the Father wants even when my eyes are selfishly clouded. Sometimes I think I am exactly like a little kid, still learning how to listen to the Father, still unwilling to help when I do not see the reward for me, still unable to work for the joy of love. I am not childlike in the sense that Jesus praised, I am childish selfish and need to grow.
Lord, help me to listen to you when you ask for my help. I am tempted to refuse you, to pursue my own selfish ends. If I refuse, please send someone into my life who will remain near me walking with helping me to listen when you call. Do not tire of calling on me, push me into your love I plead. For Christ’s sake and in his name. Amen.