You Can’t Hurry Love (or small children)

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One of the most delightful and frustrating things about small children is how entirely they enter into the present moment. They get absorbed in watching a raindrop running down a window at the exact moment you’re trying to hurry them out the door. When it comes to exhibiting this child-like nonchalance to pressure, God seems to be far better at it, than we are. What would happen if we weren’t always in a hurry? Can we learn to enjoy the present moment as much as He does? 

Have you ever tried to get a child under 8 to ‘hurry up,’ when the thing they’re hurrying up for is not top of their priority list? I do this almost every day. For example, at 8.45am in the morning on a school day, when we are still at home and we have to be at school on pain of death by 8.55am. In that moment this is my priority list:

1. SHOES!
2. COAT!
3. Packed lunch.
4. MOOOOOOVE!

But my daughter’s priority list is:

1. Pretend the cat is a baby and put a bonnet on him.
2. Practise a handstand against the wall.
3. Thump her sister for looking at her funny.

She can’t understand why I’m jumping up and down like the world is about to end. In fact, to her mind, this very moment is an excellent time to ask an existential question about the nature of the space-time continuum. And this charming lack of urgency extends right to the school gate:

Me: Quick! Hurry! The school bell’s about to go. Run. RUN!
7 year old: (Standing still gazing upwards) Ooh look, that cloud’s like a big beetle eating an egg...
Me: Aaaaaarrrrggghhhhhh.

While children are truly excellent at enjoying the present moment, the intensity of the moment can be totally overwhelming. It’s the End Times in our house if someone stubs a toe. A minor graze on a little finger means: The. World. Is. Over.

Then again, a small packet of Haribo or a balloon elicits such joy you’d think it was the rapture. It’s all quite emotionally demanding. (And yes, I do frequently feel the need to lie down in a darkened room with a damp face cloth over my face.)

Kids certainly get the stay-in-the-present and ‘keep no record of wrongs’ aspect of 1 Corinthians 13’s description of love. My experience is this: one moment my 5 and 7 year old are yanking each other’s hair, screaming at each other and duelling to the death over… well, probably a balloon or a small packet of Haribo sweets. The next moment they’re giggling and cuddling, like nothing ever happened. I love their remarkable ability to move on from total mind-bending frustration one moment, to total hilarity the next. It’s a neat trick, and one I would do well to copy.

"God seems, in many ways, to share more characteristics with a small child than a frazzled grown-up"

In the light of all this child-raising, it comes as no surprise to me that the very first description of what love is like, (in the famous passage in 1 Corinthians 13), is “Love is patient”. Patience is so totally necessary to the raising of children and any kind of caring role, it’s a shame it’s not easier to come by. Sadly, there is no shortcut to patience. (Except possibly a lobotomy. If you’re really in a hurry to become patient, it might be worth a try.)

It’s truly something to exhibit patience when one of your children falls off her chair for the tenth time in one mealtime, breaks your favourite vase, knocks orange juice all over you, her sister’s homework and your computer. Inevitably this happens at the exact moment the cat is sick on the new carpet. When this comes at the end of a long day full of similar incidents… it’s excruciatingly difficult not unleash a torrent of invective at the hapless perpetrator.

Good thing then that God seems, in many ways, to share more characteristics with a small child than a frazzled grown-up. Largely, because He’s not in a rush. “Slow and steady wins the race” may even be a divine motto. Tattoo it on your elbow, immediately.

"When we beat ourselves up after making the same old mistake again. To God, it’s the first time we’ve done it."

God is love, and love is patient. Therefore God is the most patient person in the entire universe. He bears with us, no matter what crazy stuff we’re up to at the time. Love is slow to anger and keeps no record of wrongs. That’s our heavenly Dad right there. When we beat ourselves up after making the same old mistake again. To him, it’s the first time we’ve done it. He’s not worried.

Just like a child getting ready for school (or not), he’s working to an entirely different agenda to us. We may be stressed out about fitting in, doing things right, appearing to be managing our lives ok and avoiding public embarrassment. What’s he up to? He’s enjoying the moment with us. And patiently waiting for us, to stop running round like headless chickens and enjoy the moment with him.

Jesus was patient and kind as he gently spoke to his good friend Martha in Luke 10, “Martha, you’re worried and upset about so many things. But only one thing is needed.” Mary was in the moment doing the 'one thing'; soaking up being with Jesus. Martha was stressed about getting stuff done on time and what would happen in the future if she didn’t get dinner on the table.

"There’s no fear in love. No worry. No hassle. No HURRY UP. Just oodles of gorgeous kindness right here, right now."

My natural tendency is, like Martha, to live in the future. To fret about the million and one things that need to be done. Or to dream about the million and one wonderful things that just might happen. It’s against my temperament to be present in the present, to ‘be in the room’. My brain has me running off into the horizon of the future. And I know, this sounds like the biggest piece of Emmental you’ve ever heard… But tomorrow never comes. We only ever get today.

Love is patient. He’s not in a rush to meet a deadline, produce something impressive or meet other people’s expectations. He’s here, right now and I’m convinced he’s enjoying every moment. Somehow he is still joy, even amidst the tragedy that breaks his heart. He just loves loving us.

Two things at the moment are helping me stop and enjoy him, enjoying the moment. One is my little 10 minute buzzer, that goes off (you guessed it) every ten minutes. I take a moment then to lean back into him and remember he’s here loving me everso much. It really pokes stress in the eye when I remember the creator of the universe, Mr Infinite Love, is with me all the time, patiently, kindly loving me. There’s no fear in love. No worry. No hassle. No HURRY UP. Just oodles of gorgeous kindness right here, right now.

"The present is a gift."

The other thing that helps me stop being a crazy person, is soaking. We had a lovely time of lying down, listening to anointed music and letting God love us at the church prayer meeting last week. I had such a sweet impression as we soaked together as a church. I could feel Dad enjoying us. First it was like we were a rose garden. He wandered around his rose garden, smelling the roses, taking us in. Then I saw it was like when you want to smooch with an adorable 2 year old. But the 2 year old is too busy jumping off the sofa, running around pretending to be an aeroplane and stuffing biscuits in his mouth to want to sit still and cuddle. Only then he gets tired and sits in your lap and falls asleep on you. That little warm body, leaning on you, peaceful, safe in your arms; finally there’s time to steal a kiss. That delightful moment was what Daddy God was enjoying as we stopped rushing around and ‘soaked’ in his arms.

Forgive me a little more cheese because I really am going to say this next: the present is a gift. God has big plans for your future but he’s not frustrated with you or chivvying you to hurry up. Patience is who he is. He’s not checking his watch wondering when you’re going to get it. He is admiring the clouds, enjoying balloons and practising handstands. But most of all, he’s here loving on you.

"For the LORD your God is living among you.
He is a mighty savior.
He will take delight in you with gladness.
With his love, he will calm all your fears.
He will rejoice over you with joyful songs."

(Zephaniah 3.17 NLT)