I want to share a story with you today. And it’s a story with several layers. On the surface, it’s a story about a toy. Dig a bit deeper, and it’s a story about waiting. Dig one more level, and it’s a story about the Father’s heart toward us.
My son, Henry, turned 5 about a month ago.
Now, there a couple of things you need to know about Henry. First, he’s a passionate kid, and waiting — as is true with most 5 year olds, I suspect — isn’t his strongest character trait.
Second, Henry loves Star Wars. In a moment of parental weakness about a year ago, I grew weary of watching Thomas the Train or Polar Express or Finding Nemo or whatever it was we had in DVD rotation that week, and I said, “Let’s watch Star Wars.” Feel free to lambaste me for the inappropriateness of that decision if you like; I probably deserve it.
Star Wars proved a transformative experience for Henry. He’d never seen anything like it. And, unlike virtually everything else in his life, it still captivates his attention a year later. (That’s what good stories do, by the way. Star Wars did the same for me when I was 6, and I’ve never quite gotten over it; it remains my favorite movie of all time, which is probably why I wanted to share it with Henry in the first place.)
Shortly after Star Wars, came a parallel toy experience: LEGOs. Specifically, Star Wars LEGOs. Henry’d had several different block toys previously — Mega Bloks, TRIO blocks, etc. But LEGOs, like Star Wars, offered a whole new universe of creative potential. Each of the small sets we bought him over the course of a couple of months expanded his sense of imaginative play. They also gave me a chance to play with him doing something I actually enjoyed quit a lot, too. (More disclosure: I loved LEGOs as a kid, too, and they didn’t have anything like the stuff they have now.)
About six months before his birthday, Henry began to probe the possibility of getting a bigger set when he turned 5. His focus alternated between several spaceships, but he really thought Boba Fett’s (unfortunately named) Slave 1 was pretty awesome. And when a particularly good sale at Toys “R” Us came along, I clandestinely snapped one up and squirreled it away in the garage.
For the next several months, every time we went to Target for something, Henry would want to go by the LEGO aisle. “Ooh, Dad — DAD! There’s the Slave 1! LOOK! I’d REALLY like one of those for my birthday.” I played a bit coy: “OK, Henry, I’ll think about it.” But it gave me immense pleasure as a father to know that I already had something for my son that he really wanted, that I knew he would take delight in. A couple of times I almost caved to the temptation to unveil it early. But it wasn’t quite time. Not yet.
Eventually the big day came, and Henry was as thrilled as I hoped he would be. It was the biggest set we’d ever gotten him (and I likely won’t go much bigger, as its 573 pieces actually took us a couple weeks, piecemeal, to assemble).
You know where I’m going with this, right?
Matthew writes, “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:9-11).
If I am “evil,” as Scripture affirms, yet I take such great delight in occasionally granting the deepest desires of my young son’s heart, how much more does our holy, perfect, heavenly Father delight in giving us “good gifts”?
Receipt of the Father’s gifts is not always on our timetable, of course. In fact, God has rarely, if ever, given me exactly what I asked for the moment I asked for it. Slowly, though, I’m learning that’s because He wants me to discover who He is — and discover his fatherly heart toward me.
Mysteriously, something about the process of telling Him what’s on my heart, of waiting and hoping, enables me to grow in knowing and trusting Him in a way that nothing else quite does. Over time, almost imperceptibly, I’m learning that what my soul longs for most is actually Him — not just the good things I want Him to give me. And that makes the moments He has granted my heart’s desires that much more sweet.
Let me put it another way: As much as Henry loves Star Wars and LEGOs, I think what his little heart longs for most is just to be with a daddy who loves him.
And we’re no different.