I stand at the sink in the bathroom, not yet fully awake, and begin to brush my teeth. As I brush I slowly begin to organize my day in my mind. As I am definitely not what some call ‘a morning person,’ this is more than enough to occupy my brain for the time being.
Brush, brush, brush. Easy does it. Trying to move too fast can only lead to trouble. However, something isn’t right. Something is nagging at the back of my mind. Something is odd. The thought is trying desperately to force its way to the front of my brain. Here it comes…Almost…quiet! It is way too quiet. The eight-year-old mini version of me is usually very audible by this time. Since one of God’s humorous ways of keeping me humble was to make my son what some call ‘a morning person,’ I know that he is awake. My brain is warming up now. If he is awake, and he is very quiet, that can only mean one thing. He’s probably up to something! My brain has come through, but too late.
Ow! Ouch! As I flinch from the stinging sensation on my back and my leg, I lose focus on what my arm is doing. I brush my face, leaving a streak of toothpaste and slobber from my mouth to my ear. As I turn it occurs to me that my brain is more awake than my body, which is probably why I’ve just squeezed fresh toothpaste onto my feet and knocked over my cup of water, soaking my pajamas. There behind me I see my young doppelganger giggling uncontrollably, one hand over his mouth and one ready to launch another superball in my general direction. The other two small, hard rubber balls are still moving around the bathroom, one on the floor and the other in the tub. I do the only thing I can. I take the next hit just above the belly button.
But now the adrenaline has surged through my body, waking up my still sleepy arms and legs. I’m ready for action! I take note of the fact that my attacker is now empty-handed, then I quickly retrieve all three superballs. As he realizes that he is no longer the attacker, but is now the defender, his feet start moving before his body does, like a Saturday morning cartoon. He yells as I chase him down the hall – not in fear, if that’s what you’re thinking. He is calling me a sissy and a Nancy-boy. But I’m on him like a fly on a dumpster. Fire one! Two! Three! All direct hits. He dives for the couch, but I am right behind him. There is no escape.
And then, as clearly outlined in the Rules of Dad, mass tickling ensues. There is no mercy. After a few minutes we are both out of breath from laughing so hard.
These are the moments I live for.
When I finally get back to the bathroom I am somewhat, but not completely shocked at my reflection in the mirror. My hair is standing wildly out in all directions. There is halfway dried toothpaste on my face, my hands, and even my feet. I am wet. My face underneath the toothpaste is red and I’m still trying to catch my breath. It occurs to me that anyone walking in on us during the past few minutes would probably think that they had accidentally encountered at least one escaped lunatic.
I have several very good friends with kids around the same age as Josh, but I just can’t imagine them having the exact same kind of bonding experiences as we do. Don’t get me wrong. As hard as it is for me to imagine, I know that they love their kids every bit as much as I love Josh. They’ve worked just as hard at being good parents. They too would gladly die for their children if necessary. And I know that they also have their own special bonding moments. Just probably not attacking each other with superballs. Maybe they do things that I would think are crazy. And that’s how it should be. My relationship with Josh is special. It doesn’t follow anyone else’s code or set of rules. And if they tried to make a formula out of my relationship with Josh…let’s just say that there would probably be issues.
Of course there are boundaries. His well-being is my number one responsibility as a father. And no one else could copy our relationship, either. I’m a good dad. God wired me that way. I could give advice on raising a child, and most of it would probably be pretty good. But I can’t tell you how to have a relationship with your child, or the fourteen steps to a good bonding experience. Those are things you figure out on your own.
And guess what? It’s awesome to watch those parent-child moments happening to other people. It doesn’t matter if the picture the kid drew is never going to get them into art school, or if they are kissing mom with the same mouth that just ate a Junebug. It matters that I know what the other parents are feeling because I’ve been there. I genuinely well up with joy for my friends when I see how much their kids love them, and how much they love their kids. Even if they are weirdos.
It’s the same way in the church. We have such a problem with the way other people bond with God. The version of the Bible they use. The kind of music they sing. The way they pray. The order in which they do things in their worship service. I’ve even heard people arguing over the best day to visit the sick and elderly members of the congregation!
I don’t think it’s a mistake that one of the ways the Bible describes our relationship to God – over and over again, I might add – is like a Father with his children. So here’s a news flash: just like with other parents and their kids, within certain boundaries, there is no cookie-cutter way to worship God! The Bible gives us the essentials. Aside from those, He has a special relationship with each and every one of us. It’s not about what kind of music we sing, or how we pray. It’s that we do sing, and we do pray. He loves those moments!
So, if you don’t like the singing, that’s okay. Just think of it as their special bonding time with God. It’ll be over soon. But enjoy the fact that people around you have the same special times with God that you do. And in the meantime, enjoy the worship. Enjoy the moment that is happening between the worshipers and their Father in heaven. Even if they are weirdos.
Sing to God, sing in praise of his name,
extol him who rides on the clouds;
rejoice before him — his name is the Lord.
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
is God in his holy dwelling.