“I’m really sorry about your book.”
The little note placed by my bed shot an arrow through my heart. My love for my book had been more evident than my love for my daughter. Now I needed to apologize.
We had been at the Fourth of July celebration in the local park. This was our ninth year in a row at the same fireworks show. It has become a family tradition. We get there early to get the best seats; the ones up close to where the cannons shoot their fiery glories into the sky. We sit close enough to have bits of exploded fireworks rain down on us.
The show was great; it always is. I love this holiday. After the display of lights and noise, the crowd heads en masse to their vehicles, leaving behind a park full of trash. We try to pick up after ourselves. My wife, especially, teaches the children that to leave a mess is unkind to others who will use the park after us. Among the items of trash, my daughter saw an opportunity. Over the years, much of the money we have given our children for doing chores has come from turning in recyclables. Cans and bottles littered the area. My daughter was excited.
As she picked them up, she placed them in a bag we had carried to the park. In the bag were various items; snacks, baseball gloves, and my book. Yes, I had been reading before the fireworks started. The book, given to me as a gift, was especially good. I had started earlier in the day and read several sections to my wife, commenting about the excellence of the writer.
As my daughter excitedly counted the number of cans going into that bag, my mind was occupied with counting the number of children that belong to me. Keeping them close in the midst of the crowd wasn’t easy.
Back in the car, all loaded up and ready to go, a thought crossed my mind. “Where is my book?” The bag next to me was overflowing with dripping cans and bottles. “Somewhere inside is my book,” I thought. Pulling it out my suspicion was confirmed. A large section of paper was wet. Just great.
“Why are we throwing wet cans into this bag. Now we have ruined a twenty dollar book for two dollars worth of recycling.” Those words came from my mouth as my daughter sat quietly in the seat behind me.
I didn’t say anymore about it on the drive home. In fact, I recalled that it was actually me who put in the first can. Finishing my soda, I had placed the empty can in the bag beside my book. My soul was in turmoil. I love books. My children know that I love books. Riding home, realizing that I was partly to blame for the book getting wet, I started to realize the idolatry in my heart.
My daughter’s note sealed the deal. I was guilty. The note read in part, “I am really sorry about your book. I won’t pick up cans any more. I’m going to try to buy you a new book to replace the ruined one. I love you so so so much.”
Okay, I admit it, I started to cry. And smile. Because, it not only confirmed my book idolatry, but confirmed, as well, my daughter’s love for me. I knew what I had to do.
“Honey, thank you for the kind note. I’m sorry if I made you feel like a book was more important to me that you are. You were being very resourceful by picking up those cans. I appreciate your efforts very much. Actually, I remembered that I was the first one to place a can into that bag with my book. I’m as much at fault for getting the book wet as anyone. And it doesn’t matter. The book is still readable and it can always be replaced. Will you forgive me for making a book more important than you?”
Even more important than my daughter’s forgiveness is my Father’s.
Lord, forgive me for making objects into idols. Paper and ink have become to me like idols spoken of in Scripture made of wood and stone. False gods don’t exist, but I still find ways to worship what is false. Forgive me, Lord. Help me to have a heart that is turned toward my family more that toward my hobbies. Thank you Lord for my sweet daughter. Let me love her as you do. In Christ name, amen.