Holy Thursday — the day of washing feet, of bending down to serve. Ah. That story. Followers of Christ aspire to live into that every day; of course I trip over myself and fall and get distracted and wonder why I’m doing it all. But sometimes, I nail it.
But Jesus meant this washing feet example as a lifestyle.
So at home, I want to be engaged in the washing-feet stuff. While at every step encouraging them to be independent, parenthood still yields plenty of dirty-feet moments: stomach flu, skinned knees, diapers, sticky hands, laundry, toothpaste-encrusted sinks … Opportunities a’plenty.
A lifestyle … But, see, it’s the other kind of mess I’m apt to want to gloss over, to miss.
Someone asked Abba Anthony, “What must one do in order to please God?” The old man replied, “Pay attention to what I tell you: whoever you may be, always have God before your eyes; whatever you do, do it according to the testimony of the holy Scriptures; in whatever place you live, do not easily leave it. Keep these three precepts and you will be saved.”
— St. Anthony the Great
Don’t easily leave it. This moment? Don’t leave it. I’m learning, so slowly, that now is important, and now is shaping us.
Still, I want to leave it, and my phone dings and I do. I do leave it. Just for a few minutes — but those minutes? I can’t tell you what I’ve lost in the meantime.
I can’t think of an uglier, more pervasive truth to confess.
Listen to this, or read the transcript: This story on cell phones and parents, adults. Oh, man. The community God’s given us — right around us. The abundance, glossed over. Guilty.
Now, raising strong, independent thinkers is messy; training kids to find the sweetness of life; raising girls who come to me when their sisters — their words — “break their hearts.” Being home alone with small kids all day! Drama! That stuff’s hard.
I know it’s worth it — but … that ding of a new email. It’s so addictive. It sweetly beckons me to leave the now, to escape. And I do. Why?
Because it’s 2014? Because everyone does it? Wait, that reminds me of something …: “Do not love the world or the things in the world.”
I want a transformation: In this season of having ourselves changed into people who love better so we can put more love in more places, I want to do this differently … but honestly, if the phone weren’t there, would I self-medicate with literature or crafts or a hundred other noble but lacking ideas? I need a heart change.
Back when I was yer age (please read in an accent of your choosing), parents had to ignore their children by reading magazines in the bathroom, bringing their work computers home, smoking, daytime TV. Now I do it so subtly, or with such alluring intentions, that this connectivity with anyone but the littles at my feet spills into any weak moments of my day.
I don’t want to be the fun police or feel guilty for hopping on Facebook while the kids are napping. I’m gonna be on there, but I have to stop doing it for relief. Me. I do.
I want to do this better. I want to live a life of service, but what are weaker moments of my day than those when I’m purely serving my kids?
Practically? This means I decreed today we’ll have phones on for playing our morning hymn over breakfast; then phones in the pantry. Turning on the phone ringer and treating it like a tethered rotary phone; turning off the notifications for the other stuff. Camera as I need it, but not when I don’t; admitting I’m going to miss photo-worthy moments and being OK with it.
Look: I prayed God would allow me to watch my kids grow: He provided a way. I want to be here.
Here: Today was a beautiful, cloudless 60-degree day in Michigan and my girls and I were outside from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., with a brief nap in there, too. I replied to texts when I was in the pantry, when Dave had the girls; I responded to emails at nap time. I felt … lighter.
And since I wasn’t collecting “memories” on my phone, my kids and I kept a mental tally of our day’s finds: something that might be a trillium in a little while, a great blue heron, two garter snakes, a spring beauty, a slug.
In nature study, an over-reliance on a picture versus our memories is a habit I don’t want us to make, sure. But this is about looking up, around, into their faces. They got along better today. I heard them tell a few good stories today. We had fun today.
This is not going to be the same scenario in February. I know. But God can move me to a better frame of mind before winter returns.
We decided, Dave and I, to be available to them; so they remember us being passionate about what’s going on in their now.
God’s orchestrated this now for some purpose; I don’t want to willingly leave it.