Helping & Being With

Shel Silverstein's poem "Helping" ends with the stanza

And some kind of help is the kind of help

That helping's all about

And some kind of help is the kind of help

We all can do without.

(helping (?) in the kitchen!)

For some reason, having an 11 month old Bean causes me to think of these words frequently.  But particularly, for the last day, I've been pondering how she loves to "help" me fold the laundry.  This little girl derives the greatest of delight from sitting on our bed when I dump out a full basket or two of clean laundry.  She used to simply enjoy playing with the socks and dryer balls, but recently she's begun taking a more active role in "helping" -- namely, grabbing articles of clothing and throwing them over her shoulder and off the bed as quickly and enthusiastically as you can imagine.

Yesterday Jason and I met with our pastor and were discussing various ministries, our involvement in them, and the disappointment of not seeing much fruit come, and I got the image of the Bean flinging laundry over her shoulder stuck in my mind.  She doesn't consider laundry a mundane, necessary chore -- it's just an opportunity to be with Mommy.  She doesn't worry too much about how much she's contributing to the overall goal of getting the laundry folded and put away -- she just imitates what she sees me doing when I toss laundry into piles to sort it, and she does so with great joy.  It's clear at this point in her life that she sometimes has concrete goals: climb the furniture, get to the computer before Mom notices, eat all of the hummus in the fridge, but mostly, her days are shaped by her formative desires and affections: be close to her parents and do whatever they do, explore the world and learn about everything.

From my perspective as a laundry-folder, she really isn't very helpful.  She doesn't speed up the process or make my job easier.  From my perspective as her mom, I'm so glad to have her there -- I love being with her, she's funny, and some day in the future, she'll be able to be more helpful.  I'm not worried about teaching her how to fold the laundry, though -- mostly, I'm thankful that she wants to be with me and to be like me, and I trust that she'll learn it gradually through being there.  (And a bit of instruction later, probably.)

I was telling Jason last night that it's so easy for me, as a child of God, to switch around those priorities.  I begin to think that ministry is the top goal, the most important thing, and that being with Him is a means to that end.  That tends to be a frustrating way to live, though, because when the ministry doesn't go the way that I think it should, or get to the result that I wanted, I feel like my effort and time was wasted and can question if there is something wrong in my relationship with God.  So what if I flip the script?  What if I take a page from my daughter's playbook, and instead think of ministry as a way of spending time with God?  He doesn't need me to accomplish His ends.  Maybe He invites us into His mission so that we'll be with Him, more than so that we'll help Him get it done.  

My soul breathes a sigh of relief at that thought.  It's not a novel thought, I know, but it's coming home in a new way.  What if my joy is founded in getting to be in the presence of Jesus -- not in what I do for Him?  That sounds pretty lovely.

And hey, maybe someday I'll learn how to fold socks -- or love people -- like He does.


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