We attended a week-long conference here in South Africa. It is our movement’s effort to bring our churches together, for the opportunity to connect and reconnect with spiritual family all over the world. I surely was looking forward to see old friends and spend time with them as I had a blast doing that three years ago, when Philip was still a small little thing in my tummy.
However this year was a bit challenging because he is now a toddler who is currently getting quite efficient at expressing his will. That made every hello I said to every person I crossed paths with at the conference as one full of effort. It really felt like I was trying to make small conversations with the world while 28 lbs. worth of weight was trying to move around in my arms. Nevertheless, I kept telling myself that I will get my rest once the sessions begin and I can leave him at kids church. True enough, that happened. But perhaps only for about an hour and a half or so.
It was actually great in the beginning. We brought him to the toddlers area on the first night and he ran right into the room as he saw the toys. But before the night was over, a big announcement came up on screen saying “Please collect Philip Bonifacio…” — which happened right when we were in the thick of moving praise and worship.
So my husband and I ran out to the hall and before we could see him, we could already hear him wailing as it echoes within the halls of the conference lobby. Soon enough we met him and after an assuring hug, my boy calmed down. Apparently, he just wanted to be with us. Nothing was wrong. He was just looking for Papa and Mama.
Then, next day comes and we were wondering if he’d be open to going to kids church again and he said no. We said that he shouldn’t worry because whenever he wanted we can come and get him again. He tentatively nods while saying, “Papa and Mama will get Philip.” It was as though he had to reassure himself.
Lucky boy, we got too late to the venue on that night which left us no time to check him in anymore. So he sat beside us throughout the sessions and we thought to just try the next night. But the next night was not successful either. Even with much explanation and emotional preparation, his eyes pleaded and silently screamed, “Don’t leave me!” And so, we didn’t, and for the rest of the conference, my boy was content to sit through the long sessions, amidst a sea of adults.
What puzzled me though was that he did this even after telling him about the toys and play he’d be doing in that room. It was what every kid wanted, right? The carefree fun of life as the adults are being busy adults. But then I realised I was wrong. My boy liked toys and play, yes, but he longed for relationships more. I know that a part of why he didn’t want to stay in that room is because of his personality (we think he is more of a introvert that an extrovert), and also because everything was so foreign — new place, new faces, we get it. Yet I also cannot help but see that children, in the very core of their hearts, would like to be with their parents more than a room-full of shiny toys and strangers. Maybe not everyone will refuse at the onset but we can be sure, at least, that when new experiences and pretty things lose their lustre, and kids get tired of playing, they actually begin to look for family.
It made me think about myself. Adults also have our own version of toys and a lot of ways to fill ourselves up with new discoveries. And I wonder if we have lost our own childlike faith and love for family in exchange for the lustre of new things and new experiences?
Do we still look forward more to sitting in a sea of things too big for us to understand if it means we can sit so intimately beside Our Father in Heaven?
Would we rather pursue busyness at work or in ministry, instead of spending quality time with our spouses and children?
And when was the last time we went out of our way to build with dear brothers and sisters in Christ?
Family isn’t always going to be perfect. But family is family. I know for sure that more than everything else in the world, my greatest joys come from simply being in the presence of My Triune God (the only perfect fam I have), of my biological family, of my immediate family, and of my spiritual family. It doesn’t have to be about anything big, or new, or shiny, but it is more than enough to be together and in each other’s immediate presence.
My prayer today is that we’d always prefer relationships over material pursuits and things and novelty. That we will never lose sight of what truly matters, of always choosing community over commodities. 🙂 Have a great Wednesday!