A story called “Harold” seemed to define the first several years of my ministry. This story is taking its place as my favorite. Less gritty, more grace. I must be getting older. This one is in my new book “Re:member.”
Crazy About Them
(Fairview Heights, Illinois circa 2013)
Fridays are normally a day with the grandchildren. Melissa watches all four of them each weekday and since I take Fridays off, we are all in the house together all day. I used to sleep in every Friday, take the dog on a late walk, take a shower, eat some lunch out and then piddle for the rest of the day but that was before we had grandchildren…things are different now. Last Friday, I had planned to take my oldest grandson Maddox to Chic-Fil-A. This one-on-one time always goes well and it gives Melissa a three-to-one ratio for a couple of hours. However, I discovered that my granddaughter Mabry was coming along as well and suddenly it didn’t seem right to leave Elijah at home. In a moment of extreme courage, I determined to take all three of them (ages four, three and two) to Chic-Fil-A alone. I loaded up Melissa’s Jeep Commander, installed car seats (two of which are the size of living room recliners) and secured the tribe. I left one-year-old Isaac with Melissa and was feeling pretty good about myself. I was clearly demonstrating servant leadership (this being my day off and all) by taking three children off of Melissa’s hands for a couple of hours and opening the door for great memories with Papa and some bonding time. In a moment of temporary sanity, I called my dad to see if he wanted to come along but when he heard I had all three kids, he made up a lame excuse as to why he was not coming. I was on my own.
When I arrived, I set them each free and we all held hands crossing the parking lot. Things were going so well until I opened the door. I don’t know what possessed Elijah but he immediately ran to the condiment section and began throwing packets of mayonnaise across the serving area. I quickly reprimanded him and placed our orders. Once seated just across from the glass enclosed play area, I fixed their drinks and prepared their meals. Then Mabry saw Elijah’s chocolate milk and suddenly forgot that she had told me two minutes earlier that she wanted lemonade. The second I got her calmed down, I noted Elijah was crushing his round hash browns in his hand and had already thrown several under the table at Maddox. I had forgotten napkins so I scooted to the front (leaving the kids) and grabbed a handful to clean up the tater tots when I noticed all three children were standing on their seats looking over the divider at me yelling “poop.” You have to understand, poop is the worst word they know and they always get in trouble for saying poop but now all three were yelling “poop” and laughing uncontrollably. Once we had survived lunch (and the “poop-a-geddon”); it was time for the easy part, turning them loose in the glass-enclosed, soundproof and perfectly safe play land. I ushered them inside and reached into my pocket for my phone to check messages and have some “Shane” time. “Poop, I left my phone in the car.” Running for napkins seemed acceptable but actually leaving the building seemed irresponsible. I thought about asking one of the exceptionally polite workers to run and get my phone and assumed they would have responded, “My pleasure” but that too seemed a stretch. I was going to have to go without a phone. Then I heard something from the soundproof room; they were screaming, not hurt or mad, just screaming to see how loud they could scream. At this point I imagined they were someone else’s grandchildren (this technique had worked great with my kids) but when I looked up, Maddox and Elijah had climbed on top of the interior door handle and were jumping off and Mabry had somehow managed to abscond with Elijah’s chocolate milk, take it into the play area and spill it all over the floor. It was at this point that I considered locking the play area, calling both sets of parents, informing them their children were locked inside and leaving. Instead, I went back for more napkins and cleaned up the mess.
Now at my wit’s end, I told them we were leaving because they could not obey; they all three ran into the tubular slide where I could hear them laughing and saying “poop.” Finally, I coaxed them out, put on their shoes and got them headed towards the door where we exited, held hands across the parking lot and reloaded. I started the car and swore we were never going to do this again and then I looked in the rearview mirror. They were…beautiful. Those little disobedient, “poop” slinging snot wads were absolutely beautiful. They are my descendents, my legacy, my people and my tribe. I am absolutely crazy about them! Not because they are always good (they were not good), but because they are always mine. I think God sees us the same way. We are His creation, His reflection, His people and His tribe. He is crazy about us! Not because we are good but because we are His!
-Rev. Shane L. Bishop is the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, IL