It was hot and dusty this past June, and my daughter and I were trying to bend a piece of rebar.
I don’t want to build this up too much, but it was not your ordinary hot and dusty.
We were in the desert in Mexico. Torreon is at the end of a two-day, slightly intimidating car ride, past four or five military checkpoints and unknown quantities of cactus.
We mostly didn’t want to know the temperature. It is the kind of place where you just say, “hot.”
The roads are dirt; the building we were working in had just had several of us knocking out cinderblock with sledgehammers for two days, so dust was absolutely everywhere.
The rebar? Normal No. 5 bar, as they say, but the tools to bend it were a little less sophisticated then we are lucky enough to use in the States.
The technique is to hold down the rebar with a tool kind of like a toothbrush, if your toothbrush is made of metal, three feet long, and has only two bristles. You more or less trap the rebar with this tool. Your partner — in this case, my 13 year-old daughter — slips a bar over the end of the rebar. With lots of groans, you both grab both tools with both hands and try to bring the ends of the tools together, making the bend. There is a lot of sweating, and slipping, and getting in each other’s way. It is hard work; add the dust and heat and the fact that it is 1:30 with lunch still a ways off, and you can guess how I am feeling in that moment. Maybe tired, cranky, a little short?
If those are your guesses, you are wrong.
What I was surprised to find, and it was an epiphany to me, was that working with my kid there in that hot (did I mention hot?), filthy place, I only felt one thing: pure pleasure. It was an absolute joy to partner with my teenage daughter, her working her heart out on this “service” adventure of ours.
There is a precedent in scripture that if we earthly fathers treat our children in certain healthy ways, then we can be confident our heavenly Father does so even more (Romans 12).
This is where my epiphany led, to an awareness that my heavenly Dad takes pleasure in my partnering with him.
For me, that is a shift in my thinking, and the shift is monumental. I’m not a slave, trying to make a master happy; I’m a kid, doing a service project with my Dad, and he is enjoying it thoroughly.
Jesus prayed about this partnership in John, chapter 17. The prayer is for his disciples, but he also mentions he is praying not just for them but, “also for those who will believe in me (verse 20),” so I am confident the words apply to us as well.
In verse six, Jesus said, “I spelled out your character in great detail.” Other versions use words such as “revealed” or “manifested”. In verse 10, he continues, “and my life is on display in them.”
For me, this is the great partnership, or service project. Jesus has revealed to us the Father’s character. We in turn display that character in our lives.
The fun part is we are working together, and even if it feels like a struggle and doesn’t always seem like it is working out ideally, I believe the Father’s sense towards me is pleasure.
That sure makes it fun to work with Dad.
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