By much slothfulness the building decayeth; and through idleness of the hands the house droppeth through. Ecc.10.18
Life for a boy is measured in milestones. The first time you wear “big boy” underwear. The first time you are tall enough to ride a roller coaster. And the first time you eat a Big Mac meal all by yourself. For my youngest son Robbie, the last milestone came at age 6. And it also came with a life-message about the danger of shortcuts.
For a first grader, lunch in the cafeteria is a novelty. With two older brothers, Robbie knew it meant I would be joining him occasionally with a special lunch instead of his normal sandwich and fruit. He couldn’t wait for his turn to have Mommy show up with lunch hidden in a paper bag, stamped with a familiar golden arch. The first time I did, he was thrilled.
Robbie majestically created a plate from the paper wrapping, dumped the fries onto the “plate,” and sampled his soda. Like a king on his throne, he surveyed his lunch. Then Robbie dug in with abandon to his double-decker burger. And just as quickly, secret sauce started dripping down his little fingers.
He caught some with his tongue, but surplus sauce still oozed down his hands. I could see his shirt about to become a dining accessory, and started rustling through the bag and under wrappers. “Wait Robbie, I’m sure I brought some napkins,” I said.
“It’s okay Mommy,” Robbie said raking his fingers through his hair. “My hair is a napkin.” He grinned, thoroughly pleased with himself.
I stared. Speechless.
That was a teachable moment for me. You see, I didn’t know I had to tell my children not to use their hair as a napkin. Now I know.
I learned something else from that experience. Convenience trumps correct almost every time when children are small. Which is why dirty clothes get dropped on the floor directly in front of the hamper. Or glasses get set on the counter above the dishwasher. Bad habits are easily formed, and it seems in our human nature to choose ease over diligence, quick over thorough.
Sadly, with enough choices like that, we end up with a life-culture of shallow rather than deep. Instead of pushing through to the next level of excellence, we settle. Instead of the few extra seconds it takes to find a napkin, we use our hair. And then we wonder why things aren’t the way we wish they were.
I catch myself looking for the occasional short cut. But I’ve discovered there are no short cuts to anyplace worth going.
I’ll never have a clean home unless I get to work. I’ll never save money unless I shop smarter. I’ll never be an excellent writer unless I sharpen my skills. I’ll never be a great wife or mother unless I make it a priority. I will never wake up one day and find that my dreams have become a reality, unless I’m willing to do what it takes to make that happen.
Besides a good story, Robbie’s “My hair is a napkin” experience is a great lesson. It reminds me that convenience isn’t always best. Shortcuts don’t always work. And I’ve still got a lot to learn about parenting and life.
Dear Lord, I praise You today for who You are. You are worthy of my best efforts. Forgive me when I try to take a shortcut in serving You. Help me to remember that Your way isn’t always the easy way. But it’s the best way. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Application Steps:Identify one area of your life that needs more work. What two things can you do this week to make small positive changes in that area?
Reflections: What “shortcuts” have you taken in life that proved to be bad decisions?
Why are shortcuts seldom helpful when pursuing the dreams in our hearts?
Power Verses: Proverbs 13:4, “The sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.” (NIV)
Proverbs 31:27, “She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.” (NIV)