I spent most of last Monday trying to convince her that if she had to miss school because she was sick, then pinkeye was most definitely the way to go.
She didn’t buy that at first. How could having yucky goop seeping out of one of your eyes be a good thing?
Because, I said, her eye might be sick, but she really wasn’t. No fever or vomiting (thank you, Jesus). No stomach ache or sore throat. Which meant that the usual procedures of staying immobilized on the sofa under a blanket with a cool washcloth didn’t apply.
In other words, she didn’t need to act sick. We could play.
“Even if I called in sick to school?” she asked, which was how she preferred to phrase it. Really?”
She thought for a moment. Then, in an awed whisper, she said, “Wow.”
So we played. A game of chess first, which was awkwardly played with Barbie and Ken dolls. Then we made each other a pretend Play-doh snack, then we made each other a real one. And then we colored: Snow White for her, Mater for me (because that’s how I roll).
I was trying to make our day together a good one, the sort of father/daughter experience that she would fondly remember and I could use as leverage when she starts dating in ten years (because I roll that way, too). Yet she was solemn through the whole morning. Even quiet. She didn’t even scream “Gotcha!” when she captured my queen.
“What’s the matter?” I asked over a lunch of grilled cheese sandwiches. “You feeling bad?”
“No,” she said. “Yes. Kinda.”
“You sound like your mother,” I answered. “Say it straight. Does your eye hurt?”
“No. I don’t hurt. I just feel bad.”
“Because I feel good.”
I squinted my eyes and flashed her the universal sign of male confusion.
“You feel bad because you feel good?”
“If I’m not at school, I should feel sick,” she clarified. “I don’t feel sick, so I should be at school.”
“You don’t like taking a day off with your old man?” I asked.
“Daddy,” she answered, “I have a responsitility to go to school.”
“I think you mean ‘responsibility,’” I said.
“You’re right,” I said. “Absolutely right. Going to school is part of your responsibility to grow up and be a proper lady who can do whatever God asks of her.”
“I don’t think I’m doing that today,” she whispered.
“Oh, I do.”
“No doubt about it. Because there’s another part about growing up and being used by God that doesn’t involve things like school.”
“Sure. And that’s the part we’re working on today. You have the school part down pretty good. You study and get good grades and help the teacher. Those are fine things. Fine. And I hope you always work hard like that. But a lot of people think they have to work all the time. If they’re doing stuff like we’re doing today, just hanging out and playing, they feel guilty.”
“Sort of like I’m feeling?”
“Exactly. But you don’t need to feel bad taking it easy every once in a while. That’s good for you, too. Jesus worked hard, but He still knew how to relax. He’d go for walks and sit by wells and tell stories and stuff.”
She gave me an appreciative nod. “So sometimes it’s okay to call in sick?” she asked.
“Yes. And sometimes it’s okay to call in well.”
“I like calling in well.”
But there is more we need to do, I think. And that can be summed up in one word.
We need to learn how to do more of nothing. How to sit still. God has a hard time using for His purpose those who refuse to stop and listen. Those who think it best to charge ahead rather than stand and wait. We spend so much time planning our lives that we often forget to live them.
Which is why the quality of our lives isn’t defined by how much we can get done, but how much we can let be.