"Mommy, will you play with me?" I hear this frequently. "I'm busy." or "In a minute." My children hear these statements with equal frequency. You see, I tend to think that work is the priority; fun is for when the work is done. There are beds to be made, dishes to wash, laundry to do, ... I have a long list. And of course, just when I think I'm about done, I find that the children, who were left alone too long while I worked, have dumped out all their toys so you can't walk through their room. I sigh and think, "More work."
Right about then, I hear, "You said in a minute. Can you play with me now?" I suggest, "How about I help you clean your room?" While we, make that I, clean their room, complete with lots of prodding, some yelling, and some accusation, I point out that if they would help me more around the house, I would have time to play with them. Though I didn't put it into these words at the time, I was trying to motivate them by guilt. I thought if they just felt bad enough, they would help. It didn't work, of course.
In the sermon on the mount, Jesus asked a lot of questions to challenge our wrong thinking about God. One of the questions He asked was whether we parents would give our children a rock when they ask for bread, or a snake when they ask for fish. I think I have, many, many times, but I thought I was supposed to. I thought I was being like my Father.
I knew God has purposes He absolutely wants to accomplish -- the saving of the lost and the care of the needy. I thought He was single-minded in His pursuit of these purposes. I didn't think that He could be bothered about anything else until these purposes are accomplished. I saw Him as a parent who is so busy with work that He doesn't have time for His children.
In my mind, He had been concerned about me when I was "lost." It seemed to me that as soon as I came to Him, no longer needing to be "saved," I basically moved to His blind spot. His single-minded focus was on the lost and the needy. I was no longer lost, and need is relative. I might think I have needs, but not compared to others. I was one of the ninety-nine left in the sheep fold. Only, I wasn't just left there while He went looking for one sheep. He was out looking for many lost sheep, and consequently, He had no time for me, not even time to take me to the pasture.
I felt that the only way to get the Father's attention was to work hard, to help Him. I needed to be blind to need in myself and to focus all my attention on the needs of others. Anything else would be selfish.
I did not understand Isaiah 43:4, "For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you. Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life." I didn't understand that He was willing to pause on this work of seeking the lost, this most important task, just to spend time with me. These others, the lost ones, are valuable to God, but not so valuable that He forgets me for them. He will pause in the middle of His work just to spend time with me.