What My Toddler Taught Me About Work

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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My wife and I adopted our daughter, Martha, in China last September. Trans-Pacific travel with a toddler, I learned, is not for the faint of heart. The flight home was a grueling 20-hour marathon, including a 12-hour leg from Beijing to San Francisco. It took Pam and me ten days to recover fully. Martha, on the other hand, showed no signs of jet lag.

That was our introduction to our new life as parents. Since then, I've become increasingly aware of Martha's rhythms and routines. Her life may look highly spontaneous to a casual observer, bouncing from activity to activity. It's true that her attention span seldom lasts more than five minutes, even for her favorite TV show or toy. But as anyone else who has raised a child can tell you, a toddler's life is very structured, despite the appearances.

Martha is no exception. We can set a watch by her sleep pattern. She’s up and at 'em at 6:15 a.m., naps for an hour and a half after lunch, and then crashes at 7:30 p.m. every night (she gets cranky if she's not in bed by then, or at least on her way). It's the same with meals. We don’t need a clock to remind when it's time to eat; Martha will tell us, "Eat now!"

A few weeks ago, I made a thoughtless comment about how Martha's schedule seems so inflexible. "You have to respect her routines," Pam reminded me. "It's all she knows. Besides, it's a good sign that she’s settled into a rhythm." The truth is I love being part of Martha's routines. I’m in charge of the "four Bs": bath, brush teeth, Bible (and other stories), and tuck into bed. It's pure poetry.

Martha's daily routines remind me that God has woven rhythms into human life and work that I usually ignore—or even try to alter. There are the obvious ones I can observe in nature, like the rhythm of day and night and the rhythm of the seasons. And I'm familiar with the rhythms of life found in the Bible: the cycle of feasts in the Old Testament and the weekly rhythm of worship and Sabbath-keeping. Many church calendars establish a regular pattern for worship and prayer.

And then there are the rhythms of regular living, of sleeping and meals, of commuting and shopping, of bath time and stories and prayers. Getting organized and staying that way is always a challenge, but my work has its own routine of regularly scheduled meetings and recurring tasks. I'm learning that there's poetry to those dimensions of everyday life and work as well, a deeper structure and rhythm that pulses with the cadences of the Holy Spirit. In much the same way, a poet chooses individual words and carefully crafts the connections between them to produce rhythmic patters and rhyme schemes. So I'm finding that God uses the seemingly routine and insignificant in my life and work to remind me of his presence and purpose and to invite me to trust more fully in his guidance and provision.