It was a Goonies attic worthy moment. A garage full of treasures, each one hoping her eight-year-old eyes would choose its adventure over the others. The purple bike with a unicorn designed banana seat? Ooo, or maybe dare the pink ten-speed bike instead. Or the pogo ball. That’s always fun. She could dig out the tennis racquets or the white skates with the hot pink wheels. Though, probably not a good idea to do both at the same time.
But the scent of wood shavings lure her farther back into the treasure cave. Tools and gadgets catch her eyes. Things to explore, to play with. And in the middle of it all stands her dad. Working away at his bench, his hands form and fashion a piece of wood with skill and artistry. The little girl climbs up on a frayed wooden stool, legs bobbing with excitement. “Can I help, Daddy?”
He looks from the half-finished project to his little girl’s wide-eyed grin. “Of course, sweetie.” He hands her a piece of sandpaper and shows her how to work the grains.
Brows furrowed, she sets to work, studying the tools in her hand, ready to make this the best project ever!
Until a few minutes later. When the ragged edges of the stool start to dig into the back of her legs. When the piece of wood starts to weigh down to her lap, and sawdust residue and splinters cover her skinny fingers. When the excitement of the new adventure turns into the reality of hard work. And she realizes she’s not quite equipped for the task, and is probably ruining what her dad could do way better than her anyway.
That red pogo ball sure is looking mighty tempting. She sets the unfinished work back on her dad’s workbench, scoots far enough on the edge of the stool to hop off without tipping it over, and runs after a different adventure. Something easier. More fun.
Sun-kissed and sweaty, she trickles back into the garage hours later to find her dad still at work, polishing finishing touches over the project they’d started together. She shuffles in a little slower than she had earlier. Hands in her back pockets, lips pulled to the side, she dawdles in front of him, a sense of shame pulling her chin to her chest.
“What’s wrong, kiddo?”
She drags the tip of her jelly shoe across a pile of wood shavings on the ground, not quite ready to look up. “Didn’t I ruin it?”
Setting the artwork down, he makes room to pull his little girl into his arms, then brushes the curtain of hair away from her eyes. “Nothing’s beyond restoration.”
She feels his hands, each callous linked to a masterpiece. Skilled. Patient. Graceful. What made her think she could possibly have helped him?
“Here,” he says, handing her the finished projected.
Her fingers smooth over the edges. But instead of hints of the blemishes she expected, she finds only strokes of creativity masterful enough to redeem any traces of failure. Her bottom lip trembles. “But . . . I ran away. I didn’t finish. I don’t deserve. . . .”
His eyes brim with a love she’ll never fully understand. “Gifts are never earned.”
Oh, how easily I can revert to being that little girl. So eager to do things with and for the Father. Start an adventure. Make a new creation. Ready to get my hands in it.
Until I do. Until the wood starts to chafe my fingers. Until the hard work splinters, my arms grow weary from carrying the weight, and I realize I’m not skilled enough to do it on my own.
It’s far easier to chase another distraction. Something that requires less of me. Can’t He do it better on His own anyway? So, I set down the work half started and run away, flitting over to something offering colorful promises.
But I always shuffle back. Head down, ankles crossed, hands in my back pockets, wondering how He could redeem something I’d left broken and unfinished.
And then the eyes of unconditional love find their way to mine. “There’s nothing I can’t restore.”
“B—but I failed. I gave up. How could you entrust this back to me after that?”
He pulls me into His lap, brushes back my hair with fingertips of grace. “Because, sweetheart, gifts are never earned.”
With my hand in His hand—each wrinkle, each callous tied to a masterpiece—I realize, then, the real treasure I’ve found.
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