It was a Tuesday afternoon and the girls’ tennis lessons were cut short due to a rain storm. I don’t know what phase your children are in, but I have a kindergartner and second grader. My older one is in a phase where she is deathly afraid of many things — one of which are storms. So running off the tennis court with dark clouds overhead was straight out of a nightmare for her.
By the time we arrived at home, all I wanted to do was command ask her to leave my presence. I was fully emotionally drained by that point with dinner still looming over me.
As I turned the stove on to heat the pan, I stopped myself from asking her to leave the kitchen. Instead, I did something out of the ordinary for me. I did something that surprised myself.
Instead of asking her to leave, I asked her to join me. I invited her to cook with me. This is not my normal behavior because I don’t like things messing up. I don’t like things taking longer than they have to. However, I know my child and I know that her love tank is filled with quality time. Quality time with me. Me doing something with her that is sometimes easier for me to do alone.
Me: “Sinclair, will you come brown the meat for me?”
Sinclair: “What? Me?!?! Are you serious? YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
Seriously, the only way to fully capture her reaction is through an exuberant amount of exclamation points. So there she stood in front of the stove pushing the meat back and forth beaming from ear to ear. You could almost see the love on her face.
As I stood there watching her, I realized that walls break down and love grows when we invite our children in our story.1 It would have been easy for me to push her out of the kitchen so that I could prepare the food in silence which is what this introvert would have liked, but I knew that she needed something. She needed some attention. She needed to feel useful. She needed to feel significant. A simple invitation met all those needs. It pushed her past her anxiety over the storm and her attitude was different for the rest of the night.
There are so many benefits from pushing past our own selfishness and insecurities in order to extend an invitation to our people. I experienced a much needed peace in our kitchen that night. I experienced a deeper affection for my daughter. And I caught a glimpse of future enjoyment in the kitchen with my girl. And isn’t that exactly what happens when we push past our selfishness for the sake of someone else — for the sake of the relationship? Isn’t that essentially the Gospel — God extending an invitation to move us past the wall that stood between our relationship with Him?
I first heard about this idea of inviting your children into a better story many years ago when I read Donald Miller’s book A Million Miles In A Thousand Years, where he told a story of a parent who was worried about his daughter dating the wrong kind of guy. So instead of making a big deal of that, he decided to ask his daughter to help raise money to build an orphanage in Mexico. It didn’t take long before she broke up with the guy because there was a more exciting story to be lived. It began with an invitation.
What about you? Are you at a wall with someone? Maybe its with your children. What do your kids need? Maybe you have young kids like me and you are just trying to survive the day. Preschoolers are all about imagination. Maybe your two year old needs to go outside with you and catch bubbles in the middle of a frustrating moment. Elementary age kids are about adventure. Maybe your eight year old needs to go create a fairy garden with you or a treasure hunt in the backyard. Or maybe she just needs to cook with you. Teenagers are about experiences where they feel useful and needed. Maybe your sixteen-year-old daughter needs to feel needed somewhere else so you decide to do something significant together. Or maybe the wall isn’t with your children but with your spouse. If you find yourself in a struggle with your spouse extend an invitation. Invite them to lunch while the kids are in school. Invite them to sit outside with a drink on a perfect fall night. Whatever relationship is tense, extend an invitation into something that gives them significance.
Your children will grow out of whatever phase they are currently in. You will have them in this phase for a short time — even though it feels like eternity. The relationships in your life can be the very life support that you both need. Sometimes all you need to do to move beyond the wall in front of you is to extend an invitation. Invite them into your world and your space. Invite them into something better. Sometimes peace and love comes through a simple invitation.