The Better Thing

I spotted it on the way to Nutty Buddy’s soccer game- a “Trash-to-Treasure” sale.  Glory! We had arrived a bit early and the prospect of convincing the Strawberry to stay in her stroller for an hour didn’t suit. An hour’s a long time to sit still in 2-year-old-land and I only came armed with a fruit strip and a Dum-Dum to keep her busy.  She’d be whining away after 5.2 minutes.  I batted away the voice that said stay and assured myself that I’d be back before too long.  Even if I miss a few minutes of the game, it’s not like I haven’t been to dozens before, I reasoned.  And just because my Buddy made the proclamation of, “For the very first time, I’m going to TRY to make a goal,” surely, he’s no prophet.

I helped Honeybun get all the gear out of the car- huge-honking stroller, 2 chairs, 2 soccer balls, snacks, purse, diaper bag and, oh yeah, 3 children. Then I made my move.

“I think I’ll walk next door to that sale while you wait for the game to start.”

With a nod and wave, Honeybun chased after the boys towards the fields and I, grinning from ear to ear, trotted off with the Strawberry Shortcake.

Oh, the prospects of a “Trash–to-Treasure” sale!  The cheapskate in me just couldn’t pass such an opportunity up.  And sure enough, there it was- a goldmine.  Boxes of books by authors such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Jim Elliot, Elton Trueblood, Anne Ortland, Oswald Chambers and Dietrich Bonhoeffer lined the hallways.  Better yet, I arrived just in time for the $3 Bag Sale.

I scoured each box, read each binding.  Time ticked by but I couldn’t tear myself away.  Just a few more boxes.  The OCD was really coming out.  Can’t…pass…over.  Oh, it was bad.  This obsessive-compulsive, penny-pinching, book-hoarding, lover of great spiritual writing couldn’t let go until every box was searched.  I carefully loaded my brown paper bag to overflow and made my way to the checkout- $3 in one hand, dragging my treasure with the other hand and pushing the stroller with my love handles.

I was late, I knew.  I paid for and left my 30 lb. weight with the nice ladies at the desk who agreed to hold it for me, and started hoofing it back up the hill to the soccer fields.  15 minutes.  20 minutes late.  By now I was running…and panicking.

After what seemed like eternity (but really, what doesn’t seem like eternity when you’re running), I found our chairs and watched as my husband jogged over.

“You missed it.”

Those three little words sunk like lead into the pit of my stomach.  My little prophet had indeed, made his very first goal.  Excitement, guilt, shame and sadness all passed over me in an instant, stuck in my throat and welled in my eyes.  I caught Nutty Buddy’s gaze from across the field and gave him my biggest smile and 2-thumbs-up.  He grinned from the sidelines, then went about his usual business of throwing grass at his teammates and rolling around in the mud until he was once again called in to “try” to get his team some points.

I felt the heat of all the stares of the good parents, or maybe it was just the sun.  But it felt hot and scrutinizing and I felt ashamed.  I smiled weakly and cheered my boy on for the remainder of the game but my insides churned.   I missed it.   His very first goal.   All the fit parents witnessed it but I, the unfit one, I,

 Chose the lesser thing.

It came out of the blue.  The way it rang true to my heart, I knew it was Him.

I thought of the story of Mary and Martha from Luke chapter 10.  As Martha hustled and bustled in the kitchen, preparing for all the guests she was entertaining, her sister, Mary, sat in the other room, at the feet of Jesus, and soaked-in a holy moment.

Martha, having none of it, complained to Jesus, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me alone to do all the work?  Tell her to help me.”

I must admit, I’ve often sided with Martha.  Her logic seems valid.  All this work, so many people to take care of- surely, God would be better served by do-ing rather than be-ing.  But no, Jesus’ answer to Martha is, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things.  Only one thing is important.  Mary has chosen the better thing, and it will never be taken away from her.”

The better thing.  It’s elusive when you haven’t set your heart straight or when you get caught up in Martha Stewart-ing or scrounging for great deals on a treasure trove of volumes written by some of the most powerful men and women of our day.  I could argue that the wisdom gleaned from such books could impact tens, hundreds, thousands even, and that a missed soccer goal is just that, one missed goal, which over the course of time, will be a drop in a bucket full of them.  But He whispers,

Sometimes the holiest of moments is found at a soccer field.

Did not Jesus himself push His teaching aside and rebuke the disciples saying, “Let the little children come to me because the kingdom of heaven belongs to people who are like these children” (Matt. 19:14)?  Logic told the disciples that teaching and healing the multitudes was better.  Jesus told them otherwise.

A holy moment.  I found one the very next day.  This time it was in a parking lot.  Same boy but this time, instead of a soccer ball, he had a bicycle, one without training wheels.