A Father's Gifts

Sometimes I don't identify with Scripture passages, but sometimes I do.

Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! -Matthew 7:9-11

I want so badly to do the best thing for Isaiah. He brings incredible joy to my life, but he also makes me ask the question, "which is best?" about 10 times per day. Should I let him stay up later or put him to bed even though he's not tired? Is it ok to for him to chew on the table or do I need to start teaching him not to bite large items of furniture? How forceful should I be in holding him down while changing his diaper to communicate obedience?

God, in some sense, faces these decisions as our father every day. But unlike me (thank goodness) his actions toward us are perfect. He gives precisely what we need.

As Isaiah develops and matures, he'll want things from me. He may want a tennis racquet or ballet shoes (to which I'll say yes and no, respectively). He may prefer kung fu or video games depending on which way he leans culturally (hopefully toward his mother!). He will ask for the keys to the car or money for a date. He may ask to go on a mission trip to a dangerous city or country.

In all these things, my goal must be to give or withhold things on the basis of trying to best bless him toward a correct understanding of God, which is in his best interest. I must try to love him in a way that will bring glory to the Savior. One thing I hope Isaiah learns is that when he asks for things that are good for him, I will gladly give them. When he asks for things not in his best interest, I will withhold him. At least, that is my aim.

God, who gives perfectly, never fails in this quest. When we ask for things that God knows are in our best interest, he is pleased to give them. When we ask for things not in our best interest, he withholds them.

And when it is in our best interest to wait quietly, that is what he makes us do.

I'm not sure when, if ever, I will understand living quietly. But this I know; trusting the father pays, because he perfectly gives and withholds life's blessings. And so I pray and I wait.


To live quietly

Sometimes I read a passage of Scripture and don't identify with it, and can hardly believe it is true. Here is an example.

But we urge you, brothers, to do this (love the brethren) more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.
1 Thessalonians 4:10-11

My wife knows how to live quietly. She can invest in home and family to the point where she has to check herself and reinvest in outside things. She doesn't bother people, doesn't make a fool of herself, and to my knowledge has few if any enemies.

I am quite the opposite. I toss my opinions around, argue hard for things that may or may not matter, and am impatient with a quiet life. I do like quietness, mind you; I love to read and spend hours thinking on my own. But on the whole, I prefer a list of challenges to the prospect of sameness any day of the week. When a problem arises, I want to solve it. When a group is presented with a challenge, I want to lead the charge. And when a people struggles with apathy, I want to call them back to faithfulness.

But now, life is quiet. Feedback I get from others suggests that though I have the gifts to be a pastor, I am not steady or mature enough to be one yet. I can barely take school classes because of my work schedule. I cannot invest in the church with the same amount of time that others can. I am not leading anything, not solving any problem, not learning anything (except electric market structures in the state of Illinois).

As a result, I am bored. I am embarrassed to have anyone look at my life. And I constantly wish I were elsewhere, despite knowing the problem of discontent is in the heart rather than the circumstance.

I wish I understood better what God wants to do in me. And I wish I could offer my wife more certainty of our place and direction. But I cannot. And so I pray and I wait.