"Oooo!! What ELSE can I get my hands on!?"
When my daughters were old enough to sit up, and interact more with their surroundings, there weren't enough things for them to explore. They loved to have their hands on something. They would touch it (to explore it's texture), squeeze it (maybe to see if they could crush it), pull at it (who knows why?? ...maybe to see if it would rip apart), shake it (maybe to see if it made any noise), put it in their mouth (maybe to check if it was a 'for eating' or 'not-for-eating' item), bite it (because they were teething) and share it (because they thought their mom would be as interested in exploring the item as they were).
When they finished that item-exploration-cycle the would throw it on the ground and reach/scoot/crawl/slide/roll for another nearby item to explore.
Besides eating, sleeping and getting their diaper changed, that was pretty much their whole day:
Moving from one thing to the next. ...and to the next. ...and to the next.
They weren't aware of much else. They just focused on what they were exploring and then would move on to the next exploration. It was very cute to watch them explore. At times, however, I wondered if it was too much exploration. Too much moving from one thing to the next and to the next and to the next. Too much focus on exploration without being aware of other, important things. So, at times, I would interrupt them. I would pick them up. I would hold an interesting item close to their face and lead them in exploring it's features. I would talk to them about what their daddy noticed and liked about it. Sometimes I would pick them up without an item and require them to simply explore me. I wanted them to have times of just looking at my eyes. I would hold their head in my hands and smile and help them make eye contact with me. I would tell them that I loved them. A lot of times they would try to wriggle away. They wanted the eye-contact-time with Daddy to be done so they could go on to explore the next thing.
They stopped exploring things as much when they got past the crawling/cruising age. It seems, as they got older, they exchanged exploration-time for talking-time. (I was about to write the word "conversation" time...but that wouldn't be so accurate because it was only on a occasion that they would let someone else talk.) Ava and Bethany would talk about everything they could see or think of. And if they ran out of things to say, they sometimes would actually say, "Dad, I don't have something to say. What should I say now!?"
Sometimes car rides weren't so much fun because my daughters wouldn't leave any space for anybody else to say anything. One time my oldest daughter (2 years old at the time) demanded that my wife and I would stop talking to each other. Check out the video of her angry protest. In the middle of the cries and screams you might be able to decipher the words, "Can you stop that!? Stop that!! No talking!" We didn't want to reinforce her unacceptable behavior, so we kept on talking to each other even though she was screaming and demanding that we stop. Luckily we had the video camera handy to catch it all for you! :)
I started realizing that my daughters will talk until someone tells them to stop. And if I wanted anybody else to get a chance to be heard, I'm going to have to interrupt them and ask them to be quiet for a while. So I started making it a point to tell my daughters that they had to have periodic times of being quiet.
I felt bad because basically I was telling them that they were talking too much and that they had to shut up.
But if I didn't do that, there would be no space for anything else to happen. There would be no space for my wife and I to talk to each other. There would be no space for silence. There would be no space for one of the parents to lead the conversation. Without my intervention, they would just keep going and going and going!
Jump out of parenting world and into Caleb Howard's day at work today.
Today at work I was feeling a bit like my daughters: moving from one thing to the next...to the next and to the next. I had emails to check, lesson plans to write, blog posts to revise, papers to grade, etc. etc. etc.
Thankfully, in the middle of the busyness, I heard the gentle voice of the Holy Spirit encouraging me to slow down. I felt like He was telling me:
"Caleb, there are a lot of things that I'm feeling and thinking today. I want to share with you things that I value. I want you to be mindful of me today because, if you are, it will be so exciting for you. So much good will come to you if you intentionally slow yourself down. The things you are busy with aren't bad things."
"But if you never take time to stop...if you are always quickly moving on to the next thing...you will miss the most important reason for existing. You will miss me. And I don't want you to miss me. For your sake, I want you to have me today."
"I will share with you amazing things. Take some moments in the middle of the experiences of your day to pause. Before you check your email, take a deep breath. When you're done grading the next paper, think about me. Before your next class walks into the room, remind yourself of how close I am. Remind yourself that I live in you. ...that you bear my image. ...that because of what Jesus provided for you at the cross, you are my son.
It's important that you remember things like these throughout your day. Don't let yourself get too busy that you forget who you really are. Don't let yourself forget your real purpose for existence."
In that moment, I felt like God was doing for me what I do for my daughters. I interrupt their exploration to give them a chance to see my eyes and to hear my voice. I interrupt their talking so that there can be a quiet space; a space that allows other things to be heard.
God does the same for me. He reminds me, "are you quiet enough to hear my voice?"
P.S. Sometimes when I need to slow down and hear God's voice in the middle of my day, I like to be guided by the prayers on SacredSpace.ie. It's very worth checking out!
P.S.S. Check out our #excitingGOD playlist on Spotify.