My son got into the bed with me and my wife this morning and I could feel him staring at me. It was the kind of stare where I could sense the cogs of his mind working and I did not have to ask what he was thinking because he would soon tell me. “Daddy, when I get bigger I am not going to shave like you have to.” He went on to tell me he did not want to get cut and he was scared. Days before he had noticed a cut on my neck, a simple little cut I had made while shaving. He wondered what it was and what caused it. While I had assured him that I was fine it apparently stuck with him.
Kids soak things up. They learn from us. I was, and am, tired after a whirlwind trip to California where I grew up. I have done a lot of complaining about how tired it made me. We traveled for the better part of 14 hours and the next day I was officiating my grandfather’s funeral. Three days later I was officiating my sister’s wedding, and the very next day, we had another nearly 14 hour travel day between cars, and planes, and airports. I never slept well, I was not prepared for how emotionally exhausted those two events would make me, I did not eat right, I… well I could complain forever.
My son hears all of this of course, and soaks it all in. Now what if I gave thanks instead? What if I changed my outlook? I could thank God for the miracle of modern technology and providence that allowed me to travel over 2000 miles to be with my family at some of the most important times family has. I could thank God that my meager talents were put to use to minister to my family. I could thank my wife that she is an amazing mother who took care of our children while I did what I had to do. I could thank the church that supports me financially for ensuring that I have enough money to take such things as travel for granted when others do not. I could thank God that for five days I was able to bathe in the sacredness of celebrating a life lived well and a life where two become one. In short I could exhibit gratitude and celebration instead of complaint and exhaustion.
What would that do for my son? I think I know without having to wonder really. That little boy who is afraid to shave because one day he sees a spot of blood on his father’s neck can learn to live a life of celebration or a life of complaint simply by watching me. The responsibility is terrifying. I am being watched. He has no intentions of judging me like others who watch me and wait for me to stumble. No he is nothing like that. He is watching me because I am his father, and all children watch their parents and other adults while trying to figure out how to live in this world. It is true that the sins of a parents fall to the children. That is not God punishing the innocent, it is the innocent watching the sinful while learning how to live. For the sake of my children and children who watch me everywhere I hope and pray to live a life of gratitude and celebration.
It starts with prayer as most good things always do. It starts when I go to God and admit that I need help. On my own I am prone to complain and worry and bicker, but with God my vision is often filled with wonder, gratitude, and yes celebration. I have discovered that I can go to painful and sad places with God and leave thankful, but as of yet I have never gone to such places on my own and left thankful.
Perhaps the greatest gift I can give my child is the gift of a father of prayer, who while nowhere near perfect, saw that while everyday may not be good, there is good in everyday and therefore reason to give thanks and celebrate. By God’s grace may it be so.