“Are you watching?”
“Pay attention, this is important!”
My just-turned-three-year-old Maya is the best. She’s always up to something: dancing and twirling around, climbing on furniture and banisters and countertops to test her strength, or jumping from pillow to pillow on her makeshift obstacle courses. And she needs me to witness all of it.
Maya is constantly calling my name and trying to get me to focus on what she is doing. And if I look away for a second of two, she is quick to catch me and get annoyed: “DADDY!!!! LOOK AT ME PLEASE!!!!”
I get it. She wants me to notice her, to praise her, to delight in her. And I absolutely understand how important it is for her parents to convey in every way possible how much she is loved and adored. That’s actually always on my mind, because I don’t want to screw her up due to negligence, or me saying the wrong thing, or just being too busy or ambivalent towards what she cares about. And so I do care. The vast majority of the time, I do pay attention, and give her eye contact, and shower her with the adulation she wants to hear and the affection she needs from her father.
I want to give her my best.
And I do not want to grieve her heart.
But I’ve been thinking, where did this even come from? Did she pick it from Rachel or me? I don’t think so. Did she see it on Daniel Tiger or Bubble Guppies or Molly of Denali? Nope. From her toddler friends? I don’t think so. She’s wanted Rachel and I to delight in her pretty much since she learned how to walk.
So I guess there must be something deep down in human nature that makes us crave the approval and applause of others. And it doesn’t just shape us when we are young. It takes on a life of its own for many of us during our adolescent years. And even as adults, many (all?) of us regularly act in ways that betray how eager (desperate?) we are for others to show us interest, to care about what we’re doing, to compliment us and make us feel like we really, actually matter. Heck, even as I write this blog, I am thinking about how I really want you to read it and like it and share it and be inspired by it and – if I’m completely honest – to like me just a little bit more because of it.
Even as adults, many (all?) of us regularly act in ways that betray how eager (desperate?) we are for others to show us interest, to care about what we’re doing, to compliment us and make us feel like we really, actually matter.
This is okay.
This is not a flaw.
I don’t think we need to modify this innate tendency or get upset because we’re wired this way. It’s just how we are.
Maybe it’s supposed to show us something about God.
Not only did He create us, but He created us in His image. In His likeness. This means that He shares many of the qualities He gave to us. And He tells us over and over again – in the most vulnerable ways – that just like Maya, He wants my full, wholehearted attention and He wants to be delighted in. He doesn’t want me distracted by other, lesser things.
I fall short here so often.
Way more often than the times I fall short with Maya.
Maybe it’s because God is invisible, and I don’t get to see sadness come across His face when I ignore Him or otherwise pretend like He doesn’t exist. Maybe it’s because I know I can always count on Him, and I take Him for granted. Maybe it’s because He is perfectly gracious, and will understand that I’m just trying to get an emotional fix here or there because life is so hard. I know He wishes I’d come to Him instead, but there are so many other things that catch my eye in the moment.
I really don’t treat God well at all. Man, if I treated Maya the way I treat God, it would deeply scar her for life. She would think I am such a jerk. The biggest jerk ever. And she would think I am extremely bipolar, seemingly caring about her when it suits me and ignoring her when it doesn’t.
If I treated Maya the way I treat God, it would deeply scar her for life. She would think I am such a jerk. The biggest jerk ever.
It would be totally fair for God to think that way about me. I know He doesn’t, but wow, my actions warrant it. I don’t give Him my best. Instead, I grieve His heart – much like Adam did, much like so many others did – and still do.
I want to be different.
When my kids ask me to look at them, to pay attention to them, to delight in them, I am not going to be able to do it every time. Most of the time, yes, but not every time. But every time they ask, I do want to remember that God’s heartbeat echoes in their words. I want it to prick my conscience. I want it to shake me out of my stupor and renew my resolve to keep Him first in my life.
If I look upon the history of all He has done, and all He has meant to me, how could I not notice Him? How could I not praise Him for His goodness, provision, and love? How could I not delight in Him? If Maya deserves that from me, how much more does He?