Dinner time battle with the almost-3-yr-old.
Him: “My body doesn’t need food.”
Me: “Your body DOES need food to be strong and healthy.”
Him: “Nope. My body needs toys.”
Yep. Almost-three is a glorious age. He makes me laugh. And he makes me think. His funny commentary on life makes me think about important things. Like whether I, too, prefer toys over food.
I mean, let’s be real. I face this decision between toys and food in a hundred ways every day.
Something that will sustain me vs. Something that will be fun.
What’s good for me vs. What’s exciting for me.
Making medical bill phone calls vs. Having coffee with a friend.
Beans and rice vs. Thai takeout.
Nourishment vs. Entertainment.
Essentials vs. Luxuries.
Needs vs. Wants.
Please. I want the fun choice every time. Except I usually don’t choose fun because I’m responsible… or something.
You know what I thought about my kid wanting toys instead of food? I thought that kids are funny. And that soon he’ll grow up and understand the difference between needs and wants. That soon he’ll be mature and set aside the desire for play in order to do what he should instead.
You know what I think about thinking those things? I think I have an idol: responsibility.
I typically do the “right” thing. I’m a dedicated, skilled, gifted, fruitful employee, team-mate, leader, friend, wife, mother, human. I’ve been great. I am great. I’m responsible. I approach life seriously. I try to choose food over toys. Because that’s the right thing to do. Isn’t it?
Well. The problem is, I LOVE frivolous things. Non-essential things. Irresponsible things. I love eating out. I love travel. I love clothes. I love massages and pedicures. I love coffee made by someone else. I love art. I love dancing. I love wasting a whole day on a good book. I love movies. I love adventures. I love pretty things. I love luxury. I love laughing. I love enjoying.
But I’ve come to feel guilty about loving those things. I’ve come to honor responsibility as the higher good. In the hamster-wheel of life, and the maturity-expectations of society, and my inner-quest to be a wise and healthy adult… it seems I’ve come to view “fun” as a luxury. An indulgence. Even a gluttony. A vice. The opposite of responsibility. The betrayal of responsibility. A sin.
Now, I have to say: I whole-heartedly believe in sacrificial living. In generous giving even from a place of lack. I believe in tithing and offering. I believe in supporting missions, and justice orgs, and every day humans. I believe that self-deprivation allows for an investment that extends infinitely beyond one’s own life. Beautiful. Good. Joy filled. But that’s not what I’m talking about.
I’m talking about when deprivation becomes a god unto itself. That concept seems to be growing in our society. When thriftiness becomes an obsession. When couponing becomes an idol. When simple living becomes the biggest goal. The only goal. More important than being in community. More important than worshipping and trusting God.
As I watched our sweet son cry for his toys, I found myself craving his love of fun. Craving enjoyment.
And this responsible, dedicated, hard-working human is reaching out for balance. To remember that joy and love and laughter and exhilaration are traits of God’s Kingdom. Not dependent upon things or circumstances or mood. But found within the heart of Yahweh. In His sunrises. In His seasons. In His Life. In His Love.
I love the encouragement Nehemiah gave to the people who were weeping after hearing and understanding God’s Law. When they were weighed down with the seriousness of life and of their failings and their need for healing and maturity.
And Nehemiah continued, “Go and celebrate with a feast of choice foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the LORD is your strength!” (Neh 8:10 NLT)
My sweet kiddo has reminded me: We were made for joy. To celebrate. To enjoy.
Turns out it’s something I need. Not just something I want. Thank God.