by Jason M. Karampatsos, PhD
Most of us have a routine in the morning—mine begins with waking up at 5:30, spending time with God, and ends with me grabbing a dress shirt on my way out the door around 8:15. There are a lot of variables in between the alarm clock and me reaching for my car keys, the biggest of which is when our three kids decide to wake up.
There was a long stretch where our son would come downstairs before 7:00 am, and I would put on an episode of Blues Clues as I would sit with him and read or return here to my desk to write with my office door left ajar, so that I could watch him watch his morning show. It has been a long time since he was the first one awake. Now his older sisters are the first ones downstairs after their alarm goes off sending them to do their morning devotions before they can read their latest American Girl or Nancy Drew chapter books. This particular day was the first day of summer vacation, and even though their alarms have been silenced until the fall, they began the day just like any other weekday.
It was 8:12, and our oldest asked if we could go for a bike ride this morning. I told her that I needed to leave in just a few minutes, but that we could tomorrow (if she woke up earlier) or Friday any time in the morning. After a few minutes of talking with my wife and our two girls, I ran upstairs, sprinted across my bedroom, grabbed a still-lightly-starched dress shirt from my closet and began to button it as I walked down the stairs for another quick farewell and then out the door. It was now after 8:15 and, as so happens a few times a month, I did not get to say good morning and farewell to our 5 year old son.
On those occasional mornings that our pre-k son is sleeping in when I’m off to the office, we try and Skype or FaceTime sometime after our staff prayer and brief devotion time. Today I got the call as I was driving into the office. Now, mind you, my commute is all of 1.6 miles. I do have 3 red lights to cross, so my commuting time fluctuates between 6 and 8 minutes, but it is a quick drive regardless. On the other end of the phone was my wife, Jennifer, sitting with our son who was still crying.
We have a few family-favorite games to play around the house. Nerf Battles are one of our favorite ways to start the day, the 5 of us enjoy Scrabble a little more than it is probably cool to admit, and a quick impromptu game of hide-and-go-seek works any time of day. We had just watched The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe a few nights ago, re-piquing our interest in hide-and-go-seek, and unbeknownst to me our son had tiptoed out of his bedroom and slipped into our bed while I was downstairs.
He knew where he could find me and decided to wait where he could be guaranteed a few quick uninterrupted moments with his dad. I can only imagine the smirk that must have been on his face with the brilliance of his plan that quickly crumbled into the tears and sorrow that I could feel on the other end of my phone call. I switched the voice call to FaceTime and could see with my own eyes just how heartbroken our little boy had become.
“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” —Jeremiah 19:13, NIV
The context of that passage is certainly a little different, but it is a verse that has been on my heart all morning. No parent likes to see their children cry, and the tears weigh extra heavy upon your spirit when you know that you contributed in turning joy into sorrow. In my defense, I didn’t know he was hiding there. I didn’t know, I didn’t look, I was too busy heading out the door to stop and see what unexpected gift may be waiting for me.
I hadn’t done anything special that morning to deserve his waiting for me, I had not earned his love, his playful spirit, and his decision to wait for me to spend time with him. It was the first thing in the morning, and I was on his mind, and he wanted to begin the day by sharing it with me.
You know exactly where I am going with this by now. Sure, my son’s name is Christian, but let’s swap him out of the parable for a moment and imagine God waiting at the foot of your bed first thing in the morning. God hadn’t just woken up, for He never sleeps, which means that He has been waiting, and waiting, and waiting all that much longer for time with you. He knows your routine and knows where He can find you and decides to wait where He could be guaranteed a few quick uninterrupted moments with His child. But you do not see Him.
He waits, patiently I might add, but all too often He is not found. He waits, but we don’t look, don’t see, and don’t find Him. We carry on with our busy lives and wonder why we are not seeing answers to our prayers, and often it is because we just are not looking.
I have written extensively about the impact of our perspectives (both incomplete and inaccurate at times) and how they shape our perceptions. Our perceptions are our subjective interpretations of the world around us. Our perceptions are our reality; whether they are based in Real reality or not. For my son, at that moment his reality included a father who walked by him and chose not to acknowledge him, and it crushed his spirit. But what about the role of God in our lives? Are we making time and room for Him and then wondering why we don’t experience Him like we had longed for? Are we not seeking Him and call Him distant because we are not finding him.
I chose to sit in the back seat next to my son when Jennifer picked me for lunch just to spend a few minutes in closer proximity to my son. I wanted him to know how much he is loved, and for him that includes quality time spent close together. We also sat right next to each other at lunch, I helped him get his food at the lunch buffet and was very intentional to communicate in my words and actions that I sought him, and I found him…that I see him and love him.
Today I encourage you to join me in spending time close to God, giving Him your undivided attention. Let God know that you sought Him out with all of your heart; He has already promised that you would find Him. And when you find Him your tears, your fears, and your concerns will all fade away as your perceptions are challenged by the perceptive and clarity that can only come in the presence of God. Life will still have its challenges, but you’ll know that you will never have to face them alone.