December 27, 2016
As per tradition, the day after Christmas we drive about 3 hours from Philly to Maryland, just outside D.C., and enjoy our “second” Christmas celebration with Martine’s mom, sister, brother, and their spouses and kids. With a wife, three girls, Dominique’s husband Adam, and Nicole’s serious boyfriend Connor on out 3-hour trip, we had to do the unforgivable—stop for a bathroom break. Obviously, this upset my “gotta set a record for fastest trip” mentality. So, to my dismay, we pulled into one of the mega rest stops off the Interstate. The place was crowded with holiday travelers, and I ended up sitting at a table right next to a family of four.
I enjoy listening to the voices of young children. I can still clearly hear each of my daughters’ childhood voices—so adorable and innocent, especially Nicole who used to have a cute little “accent” stuttered, just like her dad, and we still do. One of the children at the table next to me was only about 5 or 6, but what a talker she was.
She tried hard to get her father’s attention. “Daddy, how long till we get there … Daddy, did Santa visit Grandma’s house, too … Daddy, do you like what you got for Christmas … Daddy, Daddy … ” As I was listening, I realized I wasn’t hearing any response from the dad, so I looked over and saw that he was looking buried in his cell phone, seemingly not hearing a word his daughter was saying. He wasn’t present mentally or relationally; he wasn’t where he needed to be. More importantly, he wasn’t where she needed him to be. Eventually the little girl stopped trying, but she kept looking up at him with hopeful expectation that he would respond. But, as you may have guessed, he never did in the short time I watched.
I, of course, have no way of knowing his circumstances or his thoughts. If something tragic was on his mind, I apologize for my judgmental assessment of his behavior. And I know that there were times as a young father that I was just as guilty of not engaging with my girls when they needed me. Oh, how I long for the opportunity to go back and do that differently. I have many other misgivings as well. I certainly am not trying to judge that father. But it brought to mind how easily the distractions of the day and of this world can keep us from giving our children, or others, the attention they need.
Isn’t this the same way we respond to God’s voice and prompting? Don’t we focus on trivial and transient distractions, thinking the guidance of these distractions is more important than God’s guidance? It’s dangerous to wander down a road filled with distractions while tuned into harmful substitutions. This is exactly where Satan wants you. Warning buzzers should be going off in your heart when your focus turns from God’s guidance to the dangerous callings of the corrupt world with its false hopes.
Today, and every day, make an effort to connect with your children or loved ones. After Jesus, these people in your life are the greatest gifts God gives. They are also the most important mission field in your life. The easiest way to start showing your love, respect and honor for them is by giving them your full attention when they are talking to you. But more importantly, when God is talking to you, stop and listen to Him! Whether you listen to God or you fall prey to the distracting clutter around you is your decision, so choose well.
Dear Almighty God, I know that being faithful parents and guiding our children toward You is very important to You. Help me and all parents truly listen to our children, giving them the security, dignity and love they need. Through us, they get to know the ultimate security and love You are excited to give them. Give all parents the wisdom and strength for this most important task of parenting. Please allow us to extend this attitude to all the precious people You put in our lives as our way of thanking You for these gifts. Most importantly, help me realize the dangerous game I play when I get distracted from hearing You. I pray in the name of the One who always listened to You, Jesus Christ. And all God’s children say AMEN!
“When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.’” Mark 10:14
“‘But they refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears from hearing. They made their hearts like flint so that they could not hear the law and the words which the LORD of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets; therefore great wrath came from the LORD of hosts. And just as He called and they would not listen, so they called and I would not listen,’ says the LORD of hosts.” Zechariah 7:11-13