It was midsummer on the island of Mull in the Inner Hebrides. I was on a road-trip with my son and all was quiet at the end of a long day of travel. I’d read him his bed-time stories, and I was about to leave, thinking he was asleep. But as I moved to get up, I heard a little voice in the darkness: “Please stay Daddy. Stay with me.”
I love doing bed-time with my boy – it’s one of the highlights of each day and some of our best quality time – but sometimes I’m guilty of reducing it to just a routine. Read the stories, say the prayers, have a cuddle, and leave. Sometimes I’m racing against the clock, trying to claw back as much of my evening for myself as possible. I’m always trying to get more done. I’m always rushing on to the next thing.
Why do we always rush on to something else? Why is the next thing so pressing that it intrudes on the current thing? Life is so busy and it makes so many demands on us. Maybe you’re like me and try to squeeze too much into too few hours. Up to a point you can be efficient and productive, but after that you’re just cramming. It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that a lot of things done poorly is much worse than a few things done really well. Even good things can become a hindrance when we try and do too much.
Neither is it all just from our own drive or self-made pressures. The world around us is relentless in bombarding us with a million different messages every day and the result is that we’re continually distracted and divided. The TV is always intruding on meal-times, the smartphone is always derailing our attention during family time and endless little chores and tasks can break up quality time with loved ones till it’s no longer quality. We need to cut ourselves off from unhelpful things every now and then. Unplug. Refocus.
Why do we rush away from beautiful moments?
So I stayed. There he was reaching for me, holding out his arms in the darkness. “Please stay.” And I did. There was nowhere else to go, nothing that needed doing. Usually the temptation is to rush away – it’s late, I’m tired, there are still things to do – but we will never have these moments again. I stayed much longer than I usually do. I just let him drift off in my arms. It was a beautiful moment of total peace.
Ethan will never be three and a quarter again. We’ll never be on Mull again, just the two of us when he’s young enough to still want nothing more than kisses and cuddles and physical intimacy. This was time to cherish, to eke out and enjoy for as long as possible. This time, this phase, this season of life will be gone beyond recall all too soon. So let’s take the time to slow down and enjoy the moment.
The next thing can wait.
Tomorrow can wait.
In the same way God wants us to slow down and enjoy His presence. We need do nothing more than just lie down with Him and rest in His arms. He says to us: “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10). We can know that as surely as Ethan knew that I was his daddy, that I was with him, and that everything was ok, if we’ll only stop and allow it to happen.
When I finally did get up my cousin Peter was still sitting by the fire out in the garden. I rejoined him and we sat together, sipping a Jura single malt and watching the long Scottish evening slowly close in around us, while out across the trees a cuckoo serenaded us. Another golden moment. “It’s the purest act of giving, to give time completely to someone else.” Thus my cousin affirmed my choice and perfectly captioned a moment that will live with me forever.
Giving time is generosity of the rarest kind. We can so easily ignore people’s need for our time and rush on, fixated only on what we want to do. Giving time is in many ways harder than giving money – we often have less of it – making it much more precious. But by ignoring both urgent and non-urgent demands alike, we can emulate God by giving time to someone else, to listen, to comfort, to just enjoy their company. We can all do more of that. We can all break our habit of busyness with a few more pauses. Create more of those moments, just by staying a little longer.