Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Will they be proud of me?

2 Corinthians 1:12-14, 18-22 (NIV)

Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, with integrity and godly sincerity. We have done so, relying not on worldly wisdom but on God’s grace. For we do not write you anything you cannot read or understand. And I hope that, as you have understood us in part, you will come to understand fully that you can boast of us just as we will boast of you in the day of the Lord Jesus.

But as surely as God is faithful, our message to you is not “Yes” and “No.” For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us — by me and Silas and Timothy — was not “Yes” and “No,” but in him it has always been “Yes.” For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
Will my children be as proud of me as I am of them? Paul asks the question of the church in Corinth as it relates to standing before the Lord in judgment. But when I consider it as it regards to raising my kids, it slams into me at least as hard as the tailgate of the minivan the time Kristie pushed the door closing button before checking to see if I was back there.

I tend to stick to one translation of the Bible for this project, but I found the way The Voice phrases verse 14 to be illuminating:
You have already begun to grasp what we mean in part; but on the day when our Lord Jesus returns, we will be as proud of you as you are of us.
I’ve been a dad for more than nine years now. We’re only a few months away from the 10th anniversary of the day I first saw a positive pregnancy test. That we have spent the great majority of the ensuing decade changing diapers, not to mention bottle-feeding or nursing babies, and will not be out of the woods until the son due in October approaches his third birthday some time in 2016, hopefully says something about the joy with which I have accepted the call to be a father. It at least says something about my mental and physical endurance. It should also be evidence I am paired with the ideal partner for this journey, without home none of this would be possible.

Over those years, I have been proud of my children many, many times. The older two have brought uncontrollable smiles to my face while performing at church or in school. Jack’s feats sometime mix pride with astonishment, such as when he was very little and it took him more time to pull himself up into the desk chair than it did to log on to the Internet, or recently when he disassembled his child-specific headphones so as to remove the volume restrictor. Max has exhibited fierce bravery from his first breath, continuing even now as he is subjected to allergy tests and shrugs off most physical pain. All three boys now have such good ways of showing their affection for dear family members, I fairly well beam when I see them building bonds one hug at a time.

God willing, there are many more moments to come. Someone’s going to bring home a fantastic grade on a difficult assignment. Someone is going to earn their drivers license on the first pass. Someone will get hired for a competitive job. Someone will get into the college of their dreams. Someone will find real love. Someone will choose fatherhood. Someone will rise up and meet the challenges of life with a courage beyond their means.

These, of course, are the easy ones to predict. Maybe each of my boys will hit all the banner moments for which the greeting card industry is ably prepared. Maybe only one will choose a certain path I might have expected to be open to all. I will love them all regardless because they’re here to live the life God set before them, not make checks on a to-do list their mother and I crafted in the delivery room.

What excites me more, though, is the potential to be proud on the in-between days. Like the time at social hour at church where Jack was teaching the young daughter of our friends how to walk. Or when Max greets his friends by name, and thanks them without prompting. Or when Charlie sticks up for himself when an older brother tries to take advantage of the pipsqueak.

Those are the things I’ve seen. There are countless possibilities for what lies ahead. Finding something lost and returning it without question. Resisting peer pressure to engage in illegal or immoral activity. Accepting a leadership role at school or church. Being the loudest kid in the marching band. Offering to shovel a neighbor’s driveway not for money, but because she just needs the help. Writing a thank you note to generous relatives. Saying “I love you,” just because.

But — will they be proud of me? Will they one day look back at childhood and think they turned out OK because of me or in spite of me? Will they have any examples of times they saw me say or do something that filled them with the same kind of joy I get from seeing them at their best?

I am certain I will embarrass my children. I have plenty of experience in being embarrassed by my dad, and perhaps even more experience embarrassing my wife. I think this trait is as common as it is unavoidable. But in the best-case scenario, it’s surface material, and all the players know it rests atop deep layers of unshakeable love, admiration and respect.

I know I’m very proud of my parents for several reasons, both for the lives they have lived, which is what the world sees, and also for the types of parents they have chosen to be, which is more personal. But on both fronts, I count myself incredibly lucky to have been blessed with such loving, devoted Christians as parents, mentors and models, and it is my earnest prayer to follow in their footsteps. I strive to both follow the trail they blazed before me while also clearing a path I would be honored for my children to hope to pursue.

This hope and striving comes with the knowledge that humanity will take us only so far. My parents are not carving their own route through life so much as trying their level best to seek God’s will, to answer that call in the truest way possible. In Jesus it is always “Yes,” the ultimate fulfillment of God’s promise. That is where my true hope lies, in knowing that for generations we’ve all been reaching for the same goal, hearing the same voice, seeking the same guidance and wrapped in the same love.

Will my children be proud of me? If my creator and redeemer are proud of me, I’ll have done my job, in the manner of all the saints gone before. I consider my wife and our children my greatest blessings on this planet, and I intend to live every day in gratitude for them and in the hopes of being both a worthy father and worthy of the Father’s love. It is not easy, but it is worth every ounce of energy and devotion. I will never waver from that belief.

A prayer for May 28:

Lord, I want to make you proud of me. I want you to see me as a good and faithful servant. I want to make good use of the many blessings and responsibilities in my life, to be a good steward of my talents, resources and family near and far. I ask you to guide me, daily, in pursuit of the goals you have set before me. I hope you will endow me with the gifts I need to be a light of your love in this world — gifts of peace, strength, patience, wisdom, courage, whatever you see fit. Use me as you need me, God, and make me your own. Amen.

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