Learning to sweep

One of my daughters can’t sweep a floor to save her life. Her personality type causes her to be a random thinker, and she just doesn’t have a methodical bone in her body. So no two strokes of the broom go in the same direction. She’ll sweep a little here, and then a little over there. She wants to do a good job. If I tell her she’s not its very upsetting. But getting a floor swept when you can’t manage to push all the dirt in one direction is pretty hard.

“Did you sweep that spot over there with the cereal still scattered around on it?” “Um, I think so.” But I love her, and weird as it may be I think it is best for her to learn to do tasks like this, hummingbird or not. So I go over it again…and again. Usually I manage not to get too frustrated. And she sticks with it. When I do get frustrated it isn’t that the floor isn’t getting cleaned, but that I can’t seem to connect with her and convey the idea that it works better if she sweeps one way or the other, but not both, or that it works better if you hold the broom in front of you than one handed over the left shoulder. I get frustrated because I want her to succeed. I get impatient because my progress with her seems so slow, not because I’m concerned about the floor.

I don’t really need her to sweep the floor. It would be much easier and quicker to sweep the floor myself. She takes 45 minutes at it. It takes me just a couple of minutes. More than a few times after she headed off to bed or wherever she was going next I’ve swept it again anyway. I stick with her on it because I want her to be able to do it. I can’t teach her this type of lesson by telling her about it. She has to experience it to understand, to be able to overcome the tendencies that could prevent her from being all she could become.

I think that God is that way with us. He doesn’t need me to save the world. He’s God. He’s omnipotent, eternal, omniscient, sovereign. In the end, his work will succeed because he’s God, not because of me. But he has prepared things for me to do. He planned them in advance, and charted my life to include the works he’s prepared. And he sticks with me as I muddle through them. Most of the time I can’t even see the slop I’m making of it. Every once in a while I get a glimpse of the bigger context and realize I’m not doing much better than the little girl who just swept the same sections of the floor four times and completely missed the rest.

But God is so patient with me. I am a flawed father. Our Father has no flaws. He never runs out of patience with his children who are seeking after him. And ever so slowly he teaches us, molds us, transforms us. The lessons that go into that process can’t be read or heard. They have to be lived.

Someday I hope my little girl will be able to sweep the floor quickly, without missing big chunks of it. At that point, I probably will give her something else to do instead. Maybe somebody else will need to learn to sweep. Someday, God’s work on me will be complete. I’m much further from that than she is from being able to sweep. Fortunately, God is near and his love for me is inexhaustible. He has a plan to bring me to completion. I hope that when I stand before him for my performance review he will say “Well done!” But it won’t be because of what I accomplished for him. Just like the point with my daughter isn’t really to get the floor clean, the point of the works God has prepared for me isn’t the work, but what he is doing in me and through me, because he loves me.

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