I’m thinking about my friend K, who is carrying a lot on his shoulders these days, and who I’m sure feels as if he’s taken on too much, certainly more than he can handle. He hasn’t come to me for advice, nor would I expect him to, as there are many other friends on his first line of defense. Although I love him dearly, I’m more like the aunt who lives far away.
But if you ever DID ask what I thought K, I’d probably answer with a story (because I’m a storyteller after all) and I’d put you right smack in the middle of it.
I’d tell you to think of yourself as a Dad, sitting at the Saturday morning breakfast table with your 5-year-old son. You’ve just announced it’s leaf-raking day, and his eyes light up like sparklers.
“Oh, Daddy, let me help!”
You say yes, of course. You don’t need his help, and you can probably get the job done much more quickly without his help, but this will be good for him. Teach him about responsibility. Man’s work. Besides, you so deeply enjoy that bonding time.
To the garage you go, you and your little man. You pick out the lightest rake for him, and direct him to the small, level strip of ground beside the mailbox. He starts smacking that ground with gusto, and leaves fly.
“Hold on, son! You might want to try flipping that thing over.” You demonstrate how to use the rake’s teeth and he gives you that grin that never fails to melt your heart.
“Like this?” He pulls exactly four leaves toward his feet.
“Exactly like that.” You smile and watch him joyfully attack his adversaries, and then you turn to tackle the slope with all the bushes, dislodging a mountain of leaves from beneath the tangled mass of roots and shoots.
You pause to check on your little man, who is now holding his small rake horizontally, balancing a pile of leaves as he brings them across the yard.
“Watch this, Dad!” He shoots the leaves upward, laughing as they fall down upon his head.
You laugh with him and return to your work, prying the wet leaves away from the curb. A little later he calls you to come inspect a wooly caterpillar, clearly ready for winter in his thick brown and black coat. The two of you watch together, heads touching, marveling at nature’s ways as the caterpillar forms a tight ball.
You tussle his hair and stand. All that’s left is the area along the driveway. It’s the toughest part because navigating the delicate flower bulbs is somewhat tricky, but you’re enjoying the day so much you have no trouble slowing down to pull some leaves out by hand. Your son starts singing a silly song and you join in.
These are the good times, you think to yourself.
Finally, you’ve amassed a pile for bagging. Your little man takes one look at it and his shoulders sag as he realizes his area is still not complete.
“Whoa buddy, what’s wrong?” You nearly break when you see the tears welling in those beautiful innocent eyes.
He sniffs and wipes his eyes with his sleeve. “Daddy, I wanted to do a good job for you, but I didn’t do anything right.” He gives his small pile a disdainful kick.
“Oh I don’t know about that.” You kneel down to look him in the eye, recognizing the yearning heart and the self-condemnation. “My man, you were great company today, and you made me laugh, and you did make this pile of leaves, which helps more than you know.”
You take his hands and press your large callused palms against his soft pink ones.
“These little hands made that little pile, and the big hands made the big pile. The important thing is, we did it together. When your hands get bigger, they will do more work, but for now, you did just enough. Besides…” You glance at the pile…“We’re not done yet.”
He nods and sniffs again, walking over to yank a lawn bag from the box by the trash can. But when he returns, you kneel again, take the bag from his hands, and set it aside.
“What, are you nuts?” You lift him and carry him to the pile. “How often do you get an opportunity to jump into such an incredibly PERFECT landing pad?”
Giggling, he squirms out of your arms and grabs your hand. Together you fly into the pile in a bundle of side-splitting laughter and start throwing leaves at each other. Finally, as you lie side-by-side, panting, your little man reaches for your hand and again gives you his famous, heart-melting grin.
“I love you, Daddy.”
You sigh, letting those precious words settle over your heart.
It’s been a good day.
Now K, I know you can relate to this story, because I know you’re a great dad and you’ve had days like this. So I want to remind you to see yourself in this scenario. Read it again and really see yourself, because, my friend, You Are That Man.
No, silly, not Dad. That’s God.
You are the Little Man.
God’s Little Man.
And don’t you forget it.
His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man, but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love. – Psalm 147:10-11