The Ministry of Inconvenience
The baby cries, awake from his nap. I run upstairs, leaving Claire preparing soup in her play kitchen. Leaving my project - transforming an unhappy, abandoned table Chris rescued from the church into a chic writing desk for our bedroom. I'm changing Noah's diaper when I remember I've left a three year old alone with an open can of paint, and rush back downstairs to find her, gobs of white all over the table legs, the wood floor, and Claire, paintbrush in hand, saying, "I'm so helpful, Mama."
It may, then, appear insanity has set in when, weeks later, as Chris and I are preparing to paint my new studio - formerly known as the dining room we never use - Claire asks, "Can I help paint?" and we say yes. Chris cuts in around the molding while I follow Claire with a roller, smoothing the drips of paint she slaps on the walls. Yes, it makes more work for us as we spend an extra hour cleaning pear-colored preschooler footprints from the floor. Or repainting the window trim because we tell Claire to paint "only the white parts," but the sills also are white so she follows our instructions too well. And we learn a lesson in being more specific in our words.
We must have patience in guiding our children toward helpfulness. It is easier and more time efficient to simply do it ourselves, but in doing so we can teach our children their help isn't necessary or appreciated. When Jacob wants to work with his papa changing the leaky pipes beneath the sink, my father grumbles, "A thirty minute job just became two hours." But he directs Jacob to fetch tools and tighten connectors, and I think of my father having the same patience with me as a child. Because he allowed himself to be inconvenienced by my help, I have those precious bonding moments, as well as some mad woodworking skills.
Christ works through His people. He doesn't need our help. In fact, I imagine Him sometimes inconvenienced (and amused) by our messy fumblings as well. But He allows us - commands us - to come along side Him in His work, and we do so the best we can. So when I have to clean up a flooded kitchen floor because Claire has helped me scrub it, or when I can't find my measuring spoons because Jacob volunteers to put away the dishes, I swallow down my impatience and instead see burgeoning Christ-followers who will someday understand that imperfect action is better than perfect inaction, that paint-stained hands can be an offering to Him. And, I hope, they will have the memory of their mother telling them, "Yes, my loves, you are so helpful."