“Dad, I’ve just realised something,” said Imogen.
She’d been thinking, you see. It was her mother that put her up to it. Imogen had informed me that Ruth had told her that I wasn’t very good at making beds. It’s a fair cop, guv. But that earth-shattering revelation had caught her imagination.
“What have you realised?” I asked, as though I was interested.
“Mum’s good at the stuff that you’re bad at, and you’re good at the stuff she’s bad at.”
“Well,” I said, “that’s how marriage is supposed to work.”
I sensed an opportunity to turn the tables on my wife.
“Out of interest,” I went on, “what is it that mum’s bad at that I’m good at?”
Imogen thought for a second, but only for a second.
“Being the best dad in the world,” she said.
Smooth. She managed to palm me off while protecting Ruth’s infallibility. Not bad for a five-year old. I felt quite proud of her, outsmarting her old man.
It makes me think of Abraham and Moses, the flawed saints, taking God to task for His behaviour. The passages where they argue with God would be controversial and tricky enough if it weren’t for the fact that they also appear to win. We can get ourselves into all sorts of theological tangles over those passages, at least until we realise that He – being God and all – doesn’t need to justify Himself to us, and we should just let Him get on with being God. He’s good at it.
The point is, I believe that He must have felt a sense of fatherly pride as his children went toe-to-toe with Him because they believed in people.
Over the years it’s been normal for my three boys to team up to try and take me down, but I’ve always been stronger and more cunning. However, as I watch them fill out and creep up, I know my days are numbered. Indeed, I suspect that when I’m in my dotage, I’m going to spend a lot of time being tipped out of my wheelchair.
I also think of Jacob, wrestling God to a standstill and extracting a blessing for his troubles. As Jacob limped away from the scene of the battle I like to think of God in heaven, nudging the angels.
“Did you see my boy go? Did you see him? What a fighter!”
Sometimes God tests us purely to give us a chance to make Him proud. I think that’s a healthy way to view things – those test are not occasions to let God down, but rather occasions to bring a smile to His face.