My arm froze mid reach, fingers hovering lightly over the radio dial, jaw nearly dropped.
I mentally replayed the words that had just echoed through my car’s speaker system, “How can father be an artist if he can’t see?”
Ten minutes earlier, I had packed my 17 month old son, Ryder, into his carseat and headed to the store for some needed errands, only to discover he had fallen asleep before we arrived. Rather than face the inevitable meltdown, I decided to drive back home and take this luxurious opportunity to have a Bible study in my car while he finished out his nap. This had proven difficult lately both due to my demanding schedule, and a severe case of dry eye that often prevents me from reading. The condition has worsened over the past few years and has begun manifesting itself in neurological symptoms, causing blurred vision, sharp pain, and facial tingling from reading for more than a few minutes at a time. I have grown increasingly frustrated over the situation in recent months since the only treatment is rest, and I firmly believe I am vocationally called to write. Though I trust God completely, and value the lessons in humility and trust that naturally accompany such a predicament, I often bemoan my “thorn in the flesh” and puzzle as to why He would allow me to develop a seemingly trivial condition that inhibits me from fulfilling His calling on my life.
As I pulled into the driveway, I pulled out my handy pack of eye drops and began dousing myself in anticipation of the coming struggle. I will admit that I was feeling quite sorry for myself as the theme music for “Lamplighter Theater,” a children’s radio drama, began to play brightly over my local Christian radio station. As I leaned forward to silence it, I paused to stare at myself in the rearview mirror, unnaturally shiny eyes leaking what appeared to be tears in long streams down my unsmiling face. I mentally rehearsed a self pitying speech to my opthamologist, “Do you have any idea how difficult it is to be an artist and a writer when you can’t use your eyes?”
It was at that precise moment that a child’s voice broke through my speaker, “How can my father be an artist if he can’t see?” Though I honestly can’t remember the exact wording, I know the boy’s prayer was nearly identical phraseology to my unspoken plea offered mere seconds before.
I was stunned, and let my hand drop back to my lap as I slowly lowered myself back into my seat. Obviously, God was trying to get my attention. I decided it would be a good idea to finish listening to the program….plus, it would give my eyes a merciful break.
I am so thankful that I did. The story, which I later discovered is called, “Charlie’s Choice,” is about a young boy who is dissatisfied with his position in his poor, yet loving family. When his grandfather offers him the opportunity to become the heir at his rich, upperclass estate, Charlie accepts with great enthusiasm. The tale chronicles Charlie’s struggle to maintain his family’s set of values while being pressured by his grandfather to abandon principle and embrace prejudice and whatever practices are necessary to rise to the top of society. He is discouraged from interacting with members of the lower class and is often forced to choose between becoming a man of character and becoming a more well, respected “gentleman.” Though the story did not seem at first applicable to my current life situation, I was deeply struck by a conversation that Charlie had with a poor stable boy named Sam, in which Sam said, “It doesn’t matter where you come from, it matters who you are.”
God opened my dry eyes to help me see how the mental paradigm I had been crafting for my son’s future success looked more the world’s idea of accomplishment than God’s. Though my son cannot yet speak in full sentences and can’t tell the difference between a Mercedes and a garbage truck, I find myself spending inordinate amounts of time worrying whether I will be able to pave the course for an academic future that includes a full ride scholarship to an Ivy League institution. I inwardly stew over whether our financial situation in ministry will ever allow us to provide him with the best toys to provide him with the most mental stimulation, the best clothes that allow him to occupy the top of social totem pole, the best sports equipment and travel team recruitment to develop his “obvious” athletic prowess. I worry about whether he will be embarrassed to invite his future, little friends over to our fixer upper. I dream of the social circles he will ascend to, the Christian leaders he will rub shoulders with as he one day becomes the pastor of a world renowned mega church. I envision how good his name will look scrawled across the cover of a best selling Christian life book displayed in the window of the local Books-A-Million.
Though often couched in Christian language and seeming loving concern, these dreams are often little more than worldly ambition in disguise.
I should want so more for my son than a surface level success that wisps into smoke when we enter eternity. I don’t want him to ascend the heights of the world’s kingdom to one day discover that he did nothing to help build God’s upside down Kingdom.
As I sat, thanking God for revealing this potentially lethal mindset when he is still so young, my mind began brewing with some core principles that could help him to build a life that really counts, and reflects the values of God’s Kingdom instead of the world’s obsession with self. With the help of my husband, we fine tuned these thoughts into 5 statements that we call Ryder’s, “Kingdom Life Goals.” We are printing them out and hanging them in our house as a constant visual reminder of what really matters.
1) It doesn’t matter how much stuff you have. What matters is how much Jesus you have, and how much of Him you give to other people.
2) It doesn’t matter where you come from, or where in society you end up, what matters is who you are.
3) It doesn’t matter how much you get, or what you manage to keep, but how much you give away.
4) It doesn’t matter if you hang out with important people. It’s your job to find the “unimportant” people and show them how special they are to God.
5) It doesn’t matter if you make it to the top, if you haven’t learned how to serve from the bottom.
*We realized that these thoughts can be even further summarized into the following two statements, which summarize the theme of the entire Bible.*
-It doesn’t matter what you accomplish if you don’t really love God and other people.
-It doesn’t matter what the world offers you, Jesus is better.
Please feel free to print these out with our free graphic and share with your friends as a helpful visual reminder of what really matters.
Even though my physical eyes still aren’t working quite right, God used this experiencing to bring restoration to my “inner” eyes, and helped me to see what is truly valuable to pass on to my children.