On Saturday, we drove down to the Long Beach Aquarium to meet up with our good friends, Steven and Jennifer and their little baby Evan. Our kids love the aquarium, and we have been members since we had Mercy.
The day was a little bit crazy. Between all of the feedings and changings and trips to the potty and time on the little playground, Jennifer summed it up well when she asked: “Did anyone see any fish?”
I confess that that is often how life feels now. For all the effort it takes to mobilize my little crew, the actual events or destinations themselves are often overshadowed by the journey. This can be exhausting and even disheartening and I am learning to accept a very different set of “results” as my definition of success.
Like the other day: it took me over an hour to get my kids changed and pottied and shod and ready to hop into the van to drive up to Pasadena to see their Dad. By the time we got to Fuller, an hour after I had planned to arrive, Doug had to run off to a meeting with our pastor. We said hello, the kids ran outside for maybe three minutes and got hugs from their pastor, we gave Daddy his cupcake and then turned around to drive back home.
Relationships are often like this too, I think. I have spent time around people for whom friendships are always productive: time spent with people is about accomplishing some set purpose. Doug and I swing to the other side a bit when it comes to relating to people: the thing that touches us the most is when people enter our little world and make themselves at home in the chaos. We rarely “entertain”, but we delight in sharing our life, with all of its rough edges, with people willing to just come and be.
When Doug was on jury duty a couple of weeks ago, we invited people over every night for dinner (because he was able to get home early because of jury duty). It was funny to see some people hesitate over the invite, thinking that to accept would mean saying yes to a long evening with us or to some set of expectations that we held about the evening. “No, really, you can just come and eat with us and leave!” we ended up saying to a few. There were those that stayed for hours, those who left soon after eating and others who came late and sat and ate on the living room floor long after the rest of us had finished. And we enjoyed each and every one.
My close relationships right now are with those people willing to lower their expectations of what will be “accomplished” when we spend time together. But the barrier I erected in my relationship with God when I felt like my chaos was not an acceptable companion to our relationship reveals my own tendency to value myself in terms of what I can produce or give. It is funny how we can hold very different expectations for ourselves…
Driving all the way to Long Beach; shelling out a bunch of cash for admission; it is natural that we expected to see some fish. But the bottom line is that we were together and maybe the things we gained were different from what we had expected but good nonetheless. And whether I go to church longing to have some spiritual hunger met and end up instead playing with toddlers, I am trying to learn to release expectations and accept what I am given. No, not just accept but appreciate and enjoy.