When we hear the garage door opening, it’s a flurry of activity. “PAPA’S HOME PAPA’S HOME PAPA’S HOME!!!” She drops everything and runs around like a chicken with its head cut off before she inevitably darts behind the kitchen counter and hides. I can feel excitement pulsing from her as she waits, holding her breath, reading to burst forth and surprise him with a hug.
He walks in, feigning confusion, “Hey, where is everybody? Oh, maybe they are all sleeping. I wondering where Mama is-”
“SUPWIZE!!!!!” she cries as she leaps out and bolts toward him with pounding little feet, “WELCOME HOME! I WAS HIDING, PAPA! I WAS HIDING THE WHOLE TIME!”
I can’t imagine a happier homecoming, and this is not an unusual scene at our home when Ben comes home. I love how she loves him, and I am over the moon for him as I see his face filled with warmth and love and delight in his child.
Everything started off similarly enough today. The garage opening, the open-mouthed excitement, the running around. But when he opened the door, she ran to him and I heard her cry out, “What fruit did you bring me today??”
He laughed and said, “You should say hi first!”
She replied, “Pear! And orange! And banana! Yay! Thanks, Papa!”
He gave her a hug and she endured it, then grabbed the fruit and ran to show me, “Look, Papa brought home fruit today!”
“That’s nice,” I said, “But have you said ‘hi’ to Papa yet?”
It was a small thing, but something tugged at my heart. Since when was fruit more exciting than the grand homecoming of one of her favorite people in the world? The man she missed every Monday morning and begged for after almost every afternoon nap? The one who tucked her into bed and made her breakfast each morning?
He’d been bringing one or two pieces of fruit home the last couple days, and now she was starting to expect it. I’m happy to have a child that still finds joy in the simple pleasures of fruit, but there was still that twinge of dismay. The happy homecoming was one of the many highlights of our days, and I didn’t want to lose it to pears and bananas. It seemed especially silly to get so excited about fruit when we were already stocked full of bananas, oranges, and grapes from a recent Trader Joe’s haul. Was she that thrilled to now have 11 oranges instead of “just” 10? To have 6 bananas instead of 5?
Before I thought too hard about it, I knelt down at her level, looked her in the eye and said, “Sweetie, you need to remember to love the giver, not the gifts.”
Before the last words left my mouth, the parallel to my own life as God’s beloved daughter became apparent, and I had to laugh. How often am I the one running after His gifts and finding delight in the things he gives me- a car, a new pair of shoes, a vacation, free time… my family? Maybe I pause to throw in a quick, “Thank you!” before looking for the next “orange” to add to my growing stash.
All the while, there He is standing in His perfect love and glory, waiting for me to look up and see and appreciate Him. To look past the bananas and oranges and simply be delighted with Him. To recognize that I already have a lot of bananas and oranges, and that every opportunity to spend time with Him is the most delightful gift of all.
Ben still loves her to pieces, and no amount of her pining after fruit will ever change that. But she is missing out on him. She is missing out on the exuberant joy she used to overflow with when he came home. I have a video of her exploding from her hiding place and jumping into his arms, and the delight and joy emanating from that little person is just unbelievable. Today, she didn’t experience that because she was too busy looking to see if he brought her fruit. He did, and she was pretty happy about it, but it was nothing compared to the delight she used to experience when she was wholly focused on him.
A minute later, she had forgotten all about the fruit.
I am just the same way with God. I get so busy asking for and looking for the things He’s giving me that I miss the opportunities to bask in His presence and experience the joy of communion with Him that He always offers. His gifts come and go, providing temporary happiness, but they just can’t compare to being with Him. I shouldn’t let stuff get in the way of me loving God.
I want to love The Giver, not the gifts.