A while ago I was listening to a preacher talk about his pride and joy… no it wasn’t his wife or his family. You guessed it… it was his car!
He had spent considerable time cleaning it and polishing it and basically making it gleam. It was a relaxed day, possibly a Saturday and the kids were out at soccer practice (football practice to you and me). The time came for the kids to be picked up and the quick errand a few miles away left him looking in despair at his once tidy interior.
His two boys, well, they had left a healthy amount of fresh, brown mud all over the back seat of the car he had spent the morning cleaning. He was livid and brought them back to the car and showed them how careless they had been and how much they had ruined his morning’s work.
The boys left the scene, no doubt hanging their heads in shame as the preacher/dad watched them leave. As they left he felt God speak to him about the mud.
‘Go and look at the mud.’
‘What? Seriously God, you want me to look at the mud?’
‘Yes, go and look at the mud.’
So, obediently the preacher went back to look at the mud that his two boys had left behind trying to see it’s significance and wondered why God would ask him to look at it again (especially when it had caused him so much distress the first time!).
God went on to speak to him about the mud. While he was thinking about his car, the boys had been trying to talk to him about their morning and the goals they’d scored, passes that they’d made and missed and, he’d missed it all. Basically because he was thinking too much about the stuff than the substance and because he did that, he missed out on some great memories.
As I am about to face fatherhood for myself, I’m concerned about the business of life and how much we let things get in the way of making memories that last and that have significance. I would hope that my son or daughter would have me fully present when I am with them, that the life I’m trying to give them (the stuff) wouldn’t replace the life I want to enjoy with them (the time).
In Ecclesiastes 4:8 we see a verse not often quoted. Verse 9-12 are often used at weddings to talk about how a chord of three strands is not easily broken but verse 8 says this:
“‘There was a man all-alone; he had neither son or brother.
There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth.
“For whom am I toiling,” he asked, “and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?”
In the midst of all his hard work, he had forgotten to enjoy himself. He had forgotten that to have a life, you actually have to build one. You have to invest in it, with your eyes fully open, being fully present and ready to enjoy life and make some memories along the way.
It’s OK for us to stop every once in a while and take stock, appreciate who and what we have. God quite often in the scriptures asks us to do this, especially when we’re stressed or loosing focus on what’s important.
Psalm 121 says, ‘I lift my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from?’
Stop and pause.
Matthew 6:25 onwards: ‘…consider the birds of the air… look at the lilies of field…’
Stop and pause.
When you look at the letters in the New Testament Paul in particular talks so fondly about the people he’s writing to. Philippians 1:7 says ‘it is right for me to feel this way about you, since I have you in my heart…’
How did they get there? He spent time with them getting to know them. He made sure that he was a part of their lives and he wanted them to be a part of his. You don’t get deep relationships like that by living a selfish life or by living the sort of existence where you forget the ones you are doing it all for.
So how can we apply this to our lives today?
We are perhaps all guilty of becoming more fast paced than ever. In a technical world that seeks to connect more effectively and efficiently we have to admit that we are failing to keep healthy, mutually beneficial relationships that go the distance.
So, if you’re ready, time for some tough questions:
Do you make enough time for the people that matter the most? If not, why not try and make time to put that right.
Do you have healthy relationships that you are in for mutual benefit?
Are you making enough good memories?
Father God, You are so good to us.
You have gifted us with time and asked us to be stewards of it. Father forgive us for the times we have forgotten to make the right people the priority, please heal any damage that may have caused.
Please help us make time for those that should matter the most.
Please help us Father to build lives full of solid relationships that go the distance.
And lastly, Lord, with your help, please help us to make memories that last and count. We know that life is fleeting, help us to make it full and enjoyable where we can.
We ask this is the mighty name of Jesus.