Last week I posted a quote from Jim Elliff on the subject of “zealous immaturity.” Writing about those who seek God’s will in a way that he feels is unbiblical, Elliff writes “God may use the sincere individual who gets his guidance the illuminist’s way. He may bless him. He may honor his faith more than his method. I am quite sure that God always condescends to our imperfections. And if there is immaturity, we must realize that God will often use in our zealous immaturity what he disallows in our maturity.” This quote was tremendously encouraging to me and has given me much food for thought. As I considered this I was reminded of something that happened not too long ago.
A couple of years ago, on Father’s Day, my son spent his morning in the preschool program of the church we were attending at the time while my wife and I enjoyed the service. When the service was over, my son came bounding into the auditorium just overflowing with excitement, holding something behind his back. He came to me and told me he had a surprise just for me. With a flourish he presented a little pencil holder he had made for me that very morning. It was made of an orange juice can covered with bits of road map. A sticker on the read “Nick’s dad must ‘Obey God’ and follow his directions. Acts 5:29.”
If I had looked at my son’s creation in a way that was purely objective, all I would have seen was a monstrosity – something that made a mockery of pencil holders. The bits of paper covered only a portion of the can and most of them were loose. The liner on the inside of the can was peeling away because of the moisture it had been exposed to. Had I seen nothing but a pencil holder, I would have thrown it away in disgust.
But I see more than a pencil holder. I see an expression of my son’s love for me. I see the effort he put into it and know that he did the best he could. He was incapable at only four years old of making a work of art worthy of a gallery. So while this gift may be a monstrosity, to me it is beautiful. I have never met a parent who would throw away such a gift, expressing disgust at the flaws in it. Every parents understands the joy of receiving such gifts. Every parent understands this kind of zealous immaturity.
Yesterday evening my two son and daughter decided to do some painting. Though they had a great time and found an activity that kept them busy, they utterly destroyed the kitchen. They attempted to keep paint on paper, but by the time they had finished their fun, the kitchen was covered in browns, blues and reds. Realizing the mess they had made, they attempted to clean up. They went to the sink and washed their hands, the pots the paint had been in, the paintbrushes, and everything else that had come in contact with the paint. This just made things worse. The kitchen, messy though it was, was better before they began to “clean.” But I could hardly hold this against them. I was glad that they had made the effort and had attempted to clean up their mess. They were proud of what they had done and I was proud of them for trying to help us out. I was proud of their zealous immaturity.
Like you I love to bring gifts to God. Whether it is a portion of the finances He has blessed me with or whether it is my time or talents, I love to present my gifts before my heavenly Father. I know that if He viewed these gifts objectively, he would see little more than the monstrosities they are before His perfect standards. He would see the selfishness in my heart as I give money to Him, knowing that I often fret that I will not be able to pay bills or that I often give money wishing I could use it to buy something for myself instead. He knows that my heart is not perfectly pure as I bring my gifts of worship to Him. He knows who I am. Yet God accepts these imperfect gifts. As a loving Father he accepts the ragged, misshapen little pencil holders I bring to Him and gives them a place of honor on His desk. He knows my imperfections, He knows I am only dust, and He knows that through my gifts, faulty as they may be, I seek to bring honor and glory to Him. He knows my immaturity, but He also knows my zeal.
It was almost three years ago that my son made me that little pencil holder. It still sits on my desk. I still love and treasure it for it reminds me of my son’s love for me and of his excitement in bringing a gift to his father.