The mother planned a very special meal to celebrate her husband’s birthday. She chose his favorite foods and shopped for the ingredients. She spent two hours cooking, and twenty minutes ironing the tablecloth. She folded the napkins and put plates and glasses on the table. Then she asked her three year old daughter if she wanted to help with a special meal for daddy. The child eagerly said “yes”. The mother showed the child how to center each fork on the napkin to the left side of the plate. While the mother put knives and spoons in place and ice in the glasses, the little girl dropped two forks and got clean ones from the drawer. Mom filled the glasses and the child knocked one over, trying to get the fork “just right”. Mom mopped up the mess, reassuring the child that the dinner would be perfect and daddy wouldn’t even notice the wet spot. The mother carried the food to the table, just as the dad walked in from work. The little girl ran to him, so very proud and said, “Daddy, I fixed you a special dinner.”

As my neighbor shared that story with me, I was struck by the magnitude of what happened in their home that night. The mother’s planning, knowledge, preparation, and patience made a way for the child to feel belonging and accomplishment. That mother and daughter shared an experience that was a blessing to someone they both loved, and provided early training for the that little girl to become a mother one day. The father was honored not just by the special meal, but by the unity of his home and the patient instruction that allowed his daughter to participate and learn and grow.

And isn’t that just how it works with us and God? God doesn’t need us because we have greater skill than He has. He doesn’t include us because we are indispensable; He allows us to participate with him. He could certainly accomplish His will much more quickly and efficiently without us. The Holy God who is completely competent seeks out those of us who are immature and incapable because He wants to include us in His plans that are already in motion.

Some people choose not to participate until they feel they are completely competent. Some try to take control and forge ahead, long before they have the understanding required. Others refuse to participate for fear of making a mistake.

But those of us who are actually trying to be obedient are so often more trouble than help. Our attempts to honor God and serve his people sometimes don’t seem to work out smoothly. Our clumsiness and inexperience can sometimes make messes that he has to clean up. But he is far more interested in sharing life with us and training our hands and hearts for what is to come, than he is in whether or not we make a mistake as we learn to obey Him more consistently and trust Him more completely. Sometimes our eagerness to be a part of God’s plan leaves a “wet spot on the tablecloth”, but God’s goal is not a pristine table cloth; it is the love and unity and growth of his family.

God doesn’t command us to figure out life for ourselves and report back to Him once we’ve mastered our task or ministry. He doesn’t demand perfection; He wants us to eagerly participate with Him, to allow Him to teach us in the day to day tasks of our lives, to give us a story that will help us trust Him, to empower us to mature and grow in our relationship with him. Your capability will not prevent His working in you and through you, but your willingness to obey might. It’s not about “getting the fork straight”; it’s about doing what you can to bring beauty and blessing into the lives of those with whom you share the meal. Don’t miss the celebration around His table because you refused to be a part of His story.