If there were a preschool edition of the show “Hoarders”, my son would totally make the cut. He gets excited about the strangest things and adds them to his multiple “collections”. Feathers, rocks (lots of them), tree bark, used popsicle sticks, leaves, and broken skateboard wheels seem like silly things to us…but to him they are treasures. The problem with these “treasures” is I always have to find room for them. Plus sweet family and friends love to bless our boys with both hand-me-downs and new toys. In addition, Isaiah rarely outgrows toys. Even though he gets new things, he legitimately still plays with the old ones. He has toys that he got for his first birthday still in the toy box. Needless to say, our toy bins are overflowing.
While reading through Deuteronomy recently, I was struck with how often God has to discipline the Israelites for turning away from Him and following false gods. More than once, it seems that they take the very blessings God gives them and rather than turning to Him, they turn away.
“For when I have brought them into the land flowing with milk and honey, which I swore to give their fathers, and they have eaten and are full and grown fat, they will turn to other gods and serve them, and despise me and break my covenant.”
God tells Moses to write a song and teach it to the people of Israel. He knows that they are inclined to turn away and wants to remind them of Who He is. I don’t know what the song sounded like, but the words are powerful and were convicting to me and my hoarder inclined heart. I mean, really, don’t we tend to do the same thing as the Israelites? We’re thankful for the blessings and the gifts that God gives. But then we get comfortable. And feel entitled. And the hoarding begins. Before we know it, the gifts become idols and we forget Who we should be worshipping. And God knows what we’re capable of.
“…For I know what they are inclined to do even today…”
So the Israelites needed to be reminded Who had given them all they had. And I needed the reminding, too.
“…He encircled him, cared for him, he kept him as the apple of his eye. Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that flutters over its young, spreading out its wings, catching them, bearing them on its pinions, the Lord alone guided him…”
In spite of God’s protection and blessing, His people forgot Him. Their over abundance led to spiritual amnesia…
“…you grew fat, stout, and sleek; then he forsook God who made him and scoffed at the Rock of his salvation.”
…and I’m afraid I can be quick to do the same. It’s a dangerous place to be in when you worship the gifts rather than the Giver.
“You were unmindful of the Rock that bore you, and you forgot the God who gave you birth.”
For the past 4 months of his life, our big comfy recliner has been my seat of choice when nursing Toby during the day. He knows this now and if he’s hungry at all I can hardly walk past the chair without him fussing. And if I sit down? Forget it. There will be no cuddling or talking or playing. The boy will want to eat and will protest loudly until he does.
It’s different, though, with Isaiah. He can sit with me in the recliner simply to enjoy my company. He doesn’t need to demand anything from me other than my attention and a few snuggles. There’s a big difference between a hungry infant and a weaned child. David knows this and uses this analogy to illustrate his relationship with the Lord…
“But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.”
Oh, to become like that weaned child before my Father. Sitting calmly and quietly with my hope put in Him rather than what I can get from Him.
“If they were wise, they would understand this…”
And my mind goes back to my pint sized hoarder who will turn 4 years old tomorrow. We want so badly for him to develop a heart that passionately loves and follows Jesus. A heart that is grateful for what it’s been given but doesn’t demand more. A heart that is content and not distracted by material things.
So what to do about a thing like birthdays? Every year so far we’ve used his birthday as an opportunity to give something to others (like collecting baby supplies for a needy new mom, giving towards a friend’s adoption rather than having a big party, or requesting money for water in Haiti rather than bringing presents) and have asked family to refrain from going overboard with gifts.
But as my mind continues to go back to the ol’ Israelites, I want so badly for him to understand this at an early age. Is he (am I) really getting this? Is he learning how to sacrificially give? I don’t want to take the excitement and joy of gifts away…even God, after all, enjoys giving good gift to His children. But how do you speak into and train a 4 year old’s heart (particularly one who LOVES getting gifts and is attached to his possessions) to love God more than things? How do you remind him that whatever we do for someone else, it’s like doing it for Jesus (Matthew 25:40)?
I’ve been spending time talking with Isaiah about the Israelites, who (in 4 year old terms) loved their stuff more than they loved God. My dear friend, Steph, did a really neat 30th birthday giving challenge for her husband, Drew (read about it here: http://drewflamm.com/birthday-giving-challenge/), and I thought it would be effective to try to start doing something similar for Isaiah’s birthdays. For each day leading up to his family birthday party, we’ll check out a different passage of Scripture about possessions or giving and he’ll pull off a link off of a paper chain. Each link has a giving challenge for that day. And Isaiah is excited about it. He’s learned Acts 20:35 in preschooler terms…
“Jesus said, ‘It is happier to GIVE than to GET.'”
…and I’m praying hard that his little heart really can believe it.
His first challenge yesterday was to make a card to send it to someone and share some of his own 4th of July parade candy stash in it. He chose to send it to his buddy Brittian who now lives in Tennessee, but my heart was even more thrilled by what he asked to do next…
Mommy, I want to write a note on a balloon and send it up to Heaven for Jesus!
Needless to say, I happily obliged. He “wrote” on a notecard…
…and I translated what he wanted to say on the other side…
Then we went to the pharmacy and picked out a balloon. He excitedly told the cashier who the balloon was for (my sweet boy showing me up on sharing his faith with strangers) and I let him pick out one for himself. We attached the note to the balloon and let it go…
While jumping up and down he kept saying, “I think Jesus is really going to like my balloon!”
Yes, sweet boy. I think you’re right.