The pastor had been talking a lot about the prophet Isaiah, the Assyrian army and humility, when he shared the story of Nik Wallenda, "King of the High Wire."
After Nik walked across the Niagara Falls on a tightrope, to keep his lust for glory and fame in check, he returned to the site of his performance the next day and spent three hours cleaning up trash left by the crowd. At the end of the service, the congregation stood and we all prayed that we'd always look beyond our arrogance and pride, and remember the humility of Christ.
Amy and I picked up our kids from Children's Church and got in the car. We hadn't left the parking lot when Evien, our 9-year-old said, "Could you pleeeze play a different song?"
"It's on my iPod,” I said. “We always listen to this song."
"I'm sick of this song,” Evien said. “You play it over and over and over. I want to hear something else. Can you play the radio instead of your iPod?"
I turned off the music altogether and heard, "Humph!" from the back seat.
Amy and I started to discuss where we would go out for breakfast when Maggie, my 7-year-old said, "Noooo! Not that restaurant! We always go there. Let's go somewhere else."
I tilted my head to the side and, over my right shoulder, said, "Are you paying for it?"
I whispered to Amy, "People don't need to pick up trash to be humble — all they need to do is have kids."
But as parents, we do pick up plenty of trash. We pick popcorn out of the couch cushions and pick up Gold Fish crackers from the floor of the car. We vacuum up glitter messes, wash dishes, sort laundry, and pick sticky stuff from the arms of chairs and out of little girl's hair.
Our minister doesn't have to worry about my wife and I getting too full of ourselves; our children keep us humble every day.
I've been a witness to my wife listening to Evien for 20 minutes talk about some mundane encounter she had with her friends on the playground — and if Amy's concentration wavers for more than a few seconds, she's suddenly the worst mom in the world.
"You don't love me. You never loved me," Evien says. "You're so mean. You never listen to me." Thump! Thump! Thump! Up the stairs she goes, pouting.
Just yesterday, Maggie was complaining about the lunches my wife packs her. I've seen the lunches my wife packs and it's far more than any little girl can eat, but Amy likes to give them plenty of choices. She packs grapes, apples, yogurt cups, cheese sticks, granola bars, and occasionally cookies or a miniature candy bar.
Maggie said, "You never pack a sandwich like the other kids get — you just throw a bunch of snacks together."
"Wait just a minute now, sister!" Amy says. "Not only do I pack you a sandwich sometimes, but when I do, I use a cookie cutter to cut it into cute little shapes. And, most of the time, the sandwich comes back uneaten."
To that, Maggie rolls her eyes and shakes like a bobble head.
With all due respect to the prophet Isaiah and the king of Assyria, but I believe if I were the leader of the Assyrian army and just came back from successfully conquering a nation, my daughter would say something like, "You did it all wrong, Dad. You should have attacked from the east instead of the west — it would have taken less time and you would have made it back for my basketball game. You're the worst dad ever! I wish Genghis Kahn were my dad instead of you. Brittany Kahn says her dad's the best."
The message my pastor was trying to convey is that we shouldn't be so self-absorbed as to rely on our own intellect, power or might for the most challenging times of our lives — we should oftentimes humble ourselves and rely on the strength of Christ. That's why God gave us children.
I think our pastor does an awesome job running the church, but this message might have been a bit of a waste. Our church is filled with young couples with kids, so he's going to have a humble congregation for at least the next 18-25 years. That should get him through to retirement.
I don't know if Nik Wallenda has kids or not, but it would have saved him three hours of picking up trash if he'd just had a short conversation with his pre-teen daughter. After walking across the Niagara Falls on a high wire, all he had to do was ask her, "How'd I do?" She would have said, "That was OK, but a really good tightrope walker would have gone across the Grand Canyon."
— By Grant Berry, Tribune community columnist