Monday, May 01, 2006

My Dream Day

I must confess--I have an active fantasy life. I am consumed by the fantasy of an ideal day—and what I could do to make it a reality. I dream of menu planning, chore charts, schedules, toys boxed up and rotated, storage systems, and—ah!—hired help. (My ultimate fantasy is right out of Jane Austen: a little bell summoning me from my lawn chair when it’s time to “dress for dinner.” Oh, if that were all I ever had to do to get ready for a meal!!)

Because of all my careful planning, my ideal day would never be rushed or hectic. We would rise early, chores and family devotions would be completed before school, toys would be returned to their places before new ones were brought out, the kitchen would be restored to its sparkling condition after each meal, and dinner would be in the crockpot before lunch. Children would be diligent, responsible, obedient and loving to me and each other. As minor disputes did arise, I would settle them with the calm wisdom of Solomon, a model of character and virtue to all. Dinner would be a time of considerate conversation, as we all practice listening attentively to one another. We would eat early, so there would be time for companionable reading or conversation with my husband while we listen to classical music by the fire, as the kids make wise and creative use of their free time before completing the day’s final pick-up and piling ‘round us on the sofa for a bedtime read-aloud and prayers.

Okay, I’ve exaggerated slightly--but I’d settle for something close! Try as I might, I’ve never been able to make it happen. So I’ve had to ask myself: Is my ideal day anything like God’s ideal? Or does He have a completely different picture?

One thing is certain—God surely has a more realistic understanding of me and the members of my family than I do. He knows we’re all sinners, for one thing. I keep thinking we can overcome that fact. Can’t we “be perfect, as He is perfect?”

Oh yeah, “perfect” means “complete” there. As in, “Apart from me, you can do nothing” and “in my weakness, He is made strong.”

So here we are, eight very human beings, all sinners, all weak and incomplete, daily in need of Christ’s blood and love to cover our multitude of sins. Even on our best days, we may be filled with the worst of motivations—independence, selfishness, pride and desire for self-fulfillment.

I suspect that God’s picture of an ideal day has nothing to do with accomplishments or relaxation. In fact, it might begin like this:

I open my eyes to the realization that we’ve overslept, on the one morning of the week that we have a class. I jump out of bed and wake the kids, admonishing them to hurry as they get dressed and eat breakfast. Back in my bedroom, I nurse the baby and read the day’s Scripture readings as I wonder when my teenage daughter is coming to get the three-year-old, who is lying on the floor at my feet and whining that she’s hungry. Finally I call loudly. No one answers. Where is my older daughter? Why aren’t the boys starting breakfast? Why is the house silent??

I detach the baby and head for my daughter’s room, the three-year-old trailing along hopefully. I shout with irritation at my daughter to get out of bed NOW, then continue down two flights of stairs to the basement--the baby wailing at his interrupted breakfast--to yell at the boys who are giggling behind the locked bathroom door. I confiscate their squirt guns and angrily berate them to get dressed and eat breakfast NOW because we have a CLASS. Back upstairs, nursing the baby again, I resume my Bible reading.

…I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

I take a deep breath. “Lord,” I pray, “I confess that I often think You’ll give me strength to make everything go the way I want it to go. Help me learn to be content whatever my circumstances. Give me the strength to accept and operate calmly within circumstances that are not ideal--I know I need to apologize for my intemperate outbursts just now. Help me accept trials as training grounds, for myself and my kids. Help me, now, not to go down there and blame them for making us late, as I know I’ll be tempted to do--though I’m the one that failed to set my alarm. Give me strength to love them as You love them, even when they’re not cooperating with my plans, and help me to be a better example. Thank you that You love me even when I fail to cooperate with You! Thank you for your patience with me.”

“Mom, we’re out of milk for cereal,” my son bursts in to tell me.

I send up a quick “arrow” prayer. “Lord, help me keep Your perspective throughout all the trials of this day! Amen.”

Hmmm—another fantasy? Maybe.

But I’d settle for something close.

(Written for my homeschool group's newsletter.)


Liquidoxology said...

Excellent! I think you should develop the "realist scene" a little more. It is fun to read!

Lei said...

I think God's idea of the ideal day is simply trying your best... because you are right, we are mortal and therefore imperfect beings.

Thanks for the perspective!

Islandsparrow said...

There is nothing like real life to help us in our Christian growth - we see our need - so quickly it seems. And that's good because without Him we can do nothing that will last or be of eternal value.
I forget that sometime...

Melissa O. Markham said...

Ahhh...the ideal day...sounds perfect;) Every day is full of lessons and opportunities to grow, if we would only pay attention and not let our human frailities get in the way. I enjoyed your post.

Polly said...

See, the cool thing about God is He meets us in our realistic day to day ups and downs. That's why we need God in our lives. His grace pours over us no matter what mood we wake up in or when we make mistakes. If we had ideal days, we probably wouldn't call or lean on God as often. He's there in the chaos and He's there in the quiet calm.