Tea Parties and Prayer

A few months ago, we shook up the tranquility in the toy world of a three-year-old. Lincoln Logs, dollies without clothes, and stuffed animals of all shapes, sizes, and species filled her safe little world. But the grandparents arrived with something new and novel—a miniature porcelain tea set complete with a miniature lace tablecloth, all neatly packed in its very own red satin hat box. What can I say? It was a smashing success.

The coffee table was summarily cleared and magically transformed into an elegant English parlor as the two ladies of the manor reclined—one to teach, and the other to learn the intricate art of hosting a socially acceptable make-believe tea party. I had no idea that there were so many elite nuances of culture required in this particular type of soirée. Quietly, I observed the careful placement of the cups and saucers and the delicate manner in which the hostess poured the pretend tea while holding the lid on the tiny china tea pot. Next, it was time for cream or sugar and the demur etiquette required when offering either. Finally, the tiny cups were raised with pinkies out, and the fantasy brew disappeared with a gentle gulp.

Over and over, I watched this ritual performed and practiced until the junior socialite decided it was time to invite the socially inept barbarian called Papa to the party. Being the doting grandfather I am, I slipped onto the floor and folded my legs into an unnatural position for which they were never created and bellied up to the bar.

The next few moments seemed like an eternity, as my little red-haired social butterfly instructed, cajoled, berated, and bludgeoned this middle-aged man with the exact phrases, voice inflections, and cautions of her illustrious teacher. With utter dismay and disgust—well, as much as a frustrated three-year-old can—I was abruptly dismissed from the table as a moron who could not even hold his tea cup properly. I can still see her tiny hands resting on her hips and hear those awful words, “No Papa! No! Not like that!”

As I ponder my failure as a seasoned man of proper breeding and social rank at that make believe tea party, and it’s far reaching effects on my male psyche and ego, I heard the still small voice deep within I know so well: “How does it feel to be told how thing are going to be done?” Uh oh, no place to hide and no place to run—I was busted.

Too often as we are praying we quickly switch from intercession to instruction—from requests to demands—from Thy will to my will. Suddenly, from God’s viewpoint, I looked like the three-year-old in command of the tea party. Unable to muster an adequate answer, I decided to listen more and talk less. And who knows? In this process if I live long enough, I might become proficient enough in the minutia of the manners required for another invitation to the tea party being held on the corner of the coffee table in my den.