Thursday, May 16, 2013

Seeing myself in them

Ezekiel 18:1-4, 19-20 (NIV)

The word of the Lord came to me: “What do you people mean by quoting this proverb about the land of Israel:
“ ‘The parents eat sour grapes,
   and the children’s teeth are set on edge’?
“As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, you will no longer quote this proverb in Israel. For everyone belongs to me, the parent as well as the child — both alike belong to me. The one who sins is the one who will die. …

“Yet you ask, ‘Why does the son not share the guilt of his father?’ Since the son has done what is just and right and has been careful to keep all my decrees, he will surely live. The one who sins is the one who will die. The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child. The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them. …”
Today was our final IEP meeting of the school year. As we sat there discussing past, present and future, I once again encountered the reality of just how much of my own personality is reflected in my kids. There are times as well where Kristie can chime in with, “He gets that from me,” so it’s not like they’re all total clones of just one parent.

We’re also able to break down which traits might have skipped a generation, or which run hard through family lines as far back as we can tell. If all three children could be established as a Venn diagram, there would be times when two of three intersect, but not always the same two, and in a few special instances all three are in the tiny circle in the middle.

These topics make for excellent discussions on long car rides when the boys are asleep and can’t hear their parents breaking down their genetic makeup. It’s part of the fun of parenting, getting to think about all of the intricate, uncontrollable circumstances by which each child was created and how they’re not just unique people but our unique people who both complete us and also leave open the question of what future generations might become.

IEP meetings, of course, are less pleasant. But even so there are times when something in the conversation can fill me with pride. And yes, there are parts of the discussion that make me feel I’ve passed on some trait I’d just as soon keep to myself. It’s not exactly a “sins of the father” type of situation as described in Ezekiel, but I can’t escape feeling guilty when I see any of my kids doing or saying something they clearly either inherited from me or picked up from watching my own questionable behavior.

It’s a weird thing, to love someone so much because they’re literally a part of me, yet to also sometimes feel so bad for them because they’re unable to escape the things about me I don’t like about myself. I’m sure this is going to continue happening in different ways as each boy grows into adulthood as well. All along the road there will be happy occurrences and frustrating epiphanies. There was never any doubt these kids are the biological product of their parents, and also of the environment they’re being raised in, but they have a way of proving the truth year in and year out.

But, as Ezekiel writes, we all belong to God. Our good days, our bad days, our best traits, our tallest hurdles — God accepts us always. If there’s anything I have in common with my kids that will always bring me joy, it’s the comfort that comes with being created and redeemed by the same loving God. That trumps everything.

A prayer for May 16:

Lord, thank you again for the opportunity to be a father. Some days I can’t understand why I would be trusted with this enormous responsibility, but I am always grateful to have these children in my life, and to be so lucky as to have found the perfect partner for the rest of my days. As we wrap up another school year, please help us appreciate the break from the regular routine. Show me ways to make summer special for our family, and may we always remember the peace and comfort that come when we surround ourselves with your love. Amen.

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