It’s a strange phenomenon – to have a child who bears your resemblance. My son looks just like his dad. He carries the same posture and walks with the same cadence. Their childhood photographs are virtually indistinguishable. The origin of my daughter’s knack for messiness and love of all things creative and comfortable isn’t a mystery. The shiny little apple doesn’t fall from the proverbial tree. There’s a certain fulfillment that comes with seeing a smaller version of ourselves forging new territory in the world. In it’s purest form, the fulfillment reflects the heart of our Maker, who created His children in His own image. It was very good.
But as the story unfolds, the simple enjoyment of our children’s image-bearing has a dark side. One that creeps up in slight shadows, every-so-stealthily eclipsing the light. These smaller humans are trained to reflect our political postures, our preferences in literature, music, sports teams, and social causes. We’re proud of our “Mini-Mes”. They’ve turned out well, of course, if they’ve turned out just like us.
Having been thoroughly indoctrinated since birth, my children choose Starbucks as their favored supplier of refreshment. They prefer signed, hardback books to the lesser mass-produced paperback versions. Their artistic, movie-going, and musical palates are being refined daily. While listening to the (repeating) stream of popular songs on the radio, one of my boys posed the (reasonable) question, “Why isn’t Ben Shive’s music played on our radio station?” To which his brother promptly responded, “The difference between Ben Shive and a lot of the music on the radio is like the difference between Tolkien and Percy Jackson.” They paused for a moment of somber reflection – perhaps for those starved souls who don’t know the difference. My children are becoming increasingly insightful – and opinionated. I’m grateful. I’m proud. Mission succeeded. Until I reconsider the mission. Until I return to the original mandate.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.
Rather, in humility value others above yourselves. Philippians 2:3
Even creators of mediocre books and cheesy teen-angst music? Or those who naively consume such twaddle?
Even politicians who view things from a radically different viewpoint than my own?
Even pop-culture icons who make millions from our lust for celebrity?
Even friends who make substantially different choices in how they parent, spend their money, deal with disappointment, and (fill your soap opera box of choice in here)?
“In humility, value others above yourselves.”
Am I modeling humility for my children? Are they learning to look for the dignity in others, regardless of differing opinions? Are their hearts being trained toward compassion and curiosity rather than judgment and pride?
Too often, my parenting is reflective of my own image rather than the image of the Father. My family becomes an unintentional empire through which I propagate my cause. The task seems insurmountable – to lead young ones toward the light – when my own sight is so skewed.
Yet the perfect parent steps in. He reminds us that He will complete the good work He has begun. That He will gently lead those who have young. That He will redeem my arrogant heart, my selfish motives, and my distorted view of myself.
It is in the mess of my brokenness that He does his best work.
As I listen to my children echo my opinions and preferences, my hope is that I will experience less satisfaction and more conviction. There, in the messiness of my own heart, the Potter molds and shapes me toward the image of his son. Oddly, it is often through my inadequacy, rather than my competency, that my children catch a glimpse of their Father and an understanding of his goodness. It is at the pivotal point of humility and dependence that we begin to see ourselves in correct relationship with our Maker.
And it is very good.