“The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” Exodus 34:6
After a long day of teaching and parenting, my wife had cooked a beautiful meal and set the table. She sent the kids off to bathe before dinner, as she wrapped up some work and I settled into my recliner to read.
Her one request was simple: everyone be at the table at 6:00pm.
Reading my book, I looked up and saw that the clock said 5:59pm. Wanting to honor her request, I quickly jumped out of my recliner to claim my seat at the head of the table.
Then the clock struck 6:00pm.
Setting my book to the side, I surveyed the delicious dinner spread across the table but noticed that every other chair remained empty.
Pride began to seep into my heart as I realized I was the only one who made it on time.
Every fiber of my being wanted me to follow my old pattern of behavior and run into the children’s room to chew them out for their blatant disrespect of their mother; part of me wanted to sarcastically call out, “Mmmm, delicious dinner plus the company is quiet,” but most of me wanted to quickly scarf down my portion and return to the seclusion of my recliner before anyone could interrupt my time. Every aspect of me wanted to respond rudely, sarcastically, angrily, mockingly, viciously, selfishly…I could feel my legs ready to spring up and shout “look at me!”
When suddenly the strangest and most palpable weight came upon my shoulders. As it pressed me into my seat, I glanced over at the book to my side whose title read, Leaders Eat Last. Softly, the Spirit’s voice penetrated my heart and said, “Are you really this dense? Sit down, wait and pray.”
As I looked over the empty chairs, I began to say a prayer over each seat for each child. Then I looked at my wife’s empty chair and prayed over her ministry to our family. I prayed and prayed and prayed and prayed…and then I looked at the clock again. It was 6:02pm.
Stopping my prayers, pride began to seep in once again. It was not that I had beaten them by seconds, but minutes. Plus I had waited for 2 whole minutes and still had not begun to eat. In fact, I was so great, I had just spent about 90 seconds praying for my family! If you examined my heart at that moment, I wanted my wife to turn the corner and see her deeply devoted husband. Once again I wanted to jump up and shout: “Come look at me!”
But before I could, a loud crash came from the children’s room; sounds of breaking glass and children’s hushed gasps of “shhhh, clean it up quick” slipped under their door. My legs tensed again, to spring into action in order to run and scream at them.
But the weight remained on my shoulders preventing me from responding as I naturally wanted to; I felt the Spirit compel me again saying “Don’t act, just pray.”
I wish I could say my children walked down the stairs in matching smocked PJs, singing in unison while greeting me with a “Hello, father, o how we do love you” or my wife Donna-Reeded to the table with a smooch.
But it did not finish like that. A second crash came from their room, as a request to handle it sent me upstairs-calmly though-to discover that the shelves I had cheaply hung two years earlier were the culprit, and so they stomped down to the table, as I picked up the mess and we sat down together at 6:11pm.
And while they never knew how I had spent those 11 minutes, my heart felt different. My attitude felt lighter, my spirit felt more loving, gracious, slower to anger and quicker to love, with greater patience and better self-control. Not because of anything I did, for my natural tendency wanted to show everyone who was boss filled with sarcasm, bitterness and frustration. But the Spirit took over and I surrendered to him those natural desires. As Moses discovered in Exodus, it is the Lord who is compassionate, gracious and kind.
Therefore, in that moment and around that meal, I was prepared to be the spiritual leader of our family: sdg.