Billy and I are a lot alike. We both love hamburgers, chocolate milk, and Legos, airplanes, building things (and crashing them together), rough-housing and tickles, and telling Sophie what a good dog she is.
We’re also different in some ways. My inclination and work are both focused largely on words, whereas Billy is quieter and more mechanical; he’d be well suited for a field like engineering. I love watching him study something and figure out how it works or create something out of Legos or scraps of other materials.
There are times, though, that it’s frustrating to wonder whether he’s hearing me explain something, whether it’s his homework instructions, his options for a meal, or how he hurt someone’s feelings. His heart is amazingly full of kindness, grace, and justice, but words don’t always seem to work.
A couple summers ago, we were at a new playground in Geneva, and the day was just truly gorgeous. Vibrant greens and blues, just the right breeze, and the sun bright but cool. A “The heavens declare the glory of God” kind of day. Billy ran over from playing, and I had him sit with me a moment on the park bench.
“Look at that, Billy, how beautiful today is. God made all that, the lake and the grass and the trees, the sky and all the clouds. He made the sun to shine and the birds to sing and the soft breeze to kiss our face. He made all this beauty for us to enjoy because He is good and loves us.”
Billy was patient for a time but got squirmy. Words aren’t really his thing, after all, and words definitely don’t win any contests with new playgrounds. He asked politely, “Can I go play now, Dad?” and gratefully ran off after my assent, but I felt disappointed that I hadn’t reached him. I prayed a moment, thanking God for the day and the time with the kids and asking Him to help me parent each in their own way, according to their own needs. Then I walked back to the playground, bumping into an old friend of my parents. While she and I were talking, her husband walked over to us, shaking his head.
“D’you wanna know what Billy just told me? He asked me if I knew that God made the lake and the trees and the birds and if I knew that God made us, too, and that He wants us to enjoy it because He loves us.”
Point taken, God. Thank you.
Billy said something last night that made me think of that conversation again. He and Karen and I were sitting around the kitchen table, playing a board game, and he hadn’t understood some words she’d said about the rules of the game and an exception she was kindly trying to make so that he could catch up. She walked away to talk to Tracy on the phone, and Billy realized that she was upset about something.
“I love Karen, Dad. And God loves Karen. God loves all of us. He loves us when we make good choices and when we make bad choices. He loves us all the time.”
Like many of us, Billy sometimes has trouble hearing his father’s words, but that still, small voice has a way of coming through loud and clear.
1 Kings 19:11-13 (KJV)
11 And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake:
12 And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.
Psalm 19:1-4 (NIV)
For the director of music. A psalm of David.
1 The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
2 Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
3 They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
4 Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world….