“Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday, happy biiiiirrrrthhhdayyyyyyy….”
Her baby dimples and toothy grin could melt the heart of any scrooge who considers taking away the singing birthday card she clutches so tightly. As her sister opens gifts and jokes with her older brother, this little one wanders in pure delight, the card opening and closing amidst her attempts to swipe a drink of soda from someone’s glass.
To think that several days ago I wanted to give up on this all together. To erase the possibility of sharing this precious moment with a family for whom a time of celebration is a refuge in the midst of a turbulent and stressful resettlement in a new country. As I sit there listening to the endless rounds of dancing, singing cupcakes and trying to convince them to teach me Iraqi dance moves, I’m struck by the realization of all I could be missing.
I can’t deny that I’m a bit of a passionate visionary, who gets bogged down and discouraged by details. I thrive on relationships, and begin to feel like a caged animal when I’m at the mercy of appointments and meetings and deadlines and to-do lists where it feels like relationships begin suffocating. Yet what made me want to throw in the towel on this relationship was more than being overwhelmed by a to-do list. It was a complete reversal of priorities.
You see, when life gets busy, I get distracted. And when I get distracted, I’m really bad at prayer. I’m really bad at being still and knowing that God is God.
And when I forget to remember this, I start believing that everything is on my shoulders. Like it’s up to me to conquer obstacles, create clarity, appease all frustration, soothe all fears. I start seeing myself and my role as way too important, instead of merely a tool in the hand of our loving Father.
When I try to control, all I manage to do is create chaos.
Yet the Father is so gracious. That week he allowed me to be broken down under the weight of all these responsibilities. I needed to be reminded of how little control I really have, how ineffective my best efforts can become.
This week has been a new kind of gift–the kind that reminds me why I need to believe and trust in the first place. Difficult obstacles have been cleared away in surprising and unexpected ways. Simple attempts at communication have rippled into more positive effects than even I anticipated. And in all of this, I am again reminded that I did nothing but simply show up. These were gifts entirely, graciously given not for my benefit, but for the benefit of this family and for the praise of his glory.
Tonight as we sit with this precious family and listen to all they find frustrating and hilarious about America, tomorrow as we make phone calls and discuss options, and in the months to come, whatever they may bring, I want to remember this is a gift. I want to receive it with open hands. I want to let it shape me into someone who looks a tiny bit more like Jesus.