Acts 20:32-35 (NIV)Anyone who lives with children, especially young children, is abundantly aware of exactly how much they soak in from the world around them. Of late I’ve been trying best to be cognizant of the way my children learn by watching. The fact our two-year-old likes to repeat just about everything anyone says is as good a reminder as any. But it goes beyond language.
“Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”
With the kids in tow, I simply try harder to be a better person. I am more likely to be gracious to people we encounter in the grocery store, to hold open a door for a stranger or to make a point of saying please and thank you audibly and directly. That’s not to say I’m a bad guy when I’m out alone — the other night I returned a Target shopping cart to the store from all the way over by Michaels, which in this case meant traversing the entire exterior of Home Depot and the La-Z-Boy store — just that when I have the kids I am hyper aware of the chances my every little word or action could soon be displayed in the ones I’m trying to raise the right way.
While regularly on the lookout for teaching moments, I am aided by a five-year-old who questions everything he sees. Why are we standing here? Why did you let that guy go in front of us? Why did you ask that lady if she dropped her dollar? Sometimes the questions aren’t useful for teaching, or even answerable. (My all-time favorite, from when our oldest was maybe four, is “What would happen if everyone got the same mail?”) But when I do have a chance to work in a word or two about being good to other people, I try to make the most of the opportunity.
This is not revolutionary. Frankly, it’s not all that hard, and I’m ashamed to think of all the times I could have done a better job in this arena in my near 10 years as a dad. And to take a deeper look at what Paul says, it’s about a lot more than just being a good neighbor. What he’s discussing is a day-in, day-out commitment to making sure everything he does shows a desire to help those less fortunate, to give as much as possible for the betterment of all, done in God’s name.
That kind of track record is a far cry from what I’m giving the planet and its people. There are dozens of ways I could be making more significant contributions, too many to count. So what I try to do is look at each day as a chance to make gains, to give more, to better live out Jesus’ commands. And, along the way, to teach my kids to do the same. The end goal is making choices each day that reflect Paul’s example here to the point where it isn’t really a choice at all — it’s just the way life is lived because that’s what God calls for. It’s a tall order, but I’m grateful for being asked to comply.
A prayer for August 12:
Lord, I am thankful as always for the gift of fatherhood. I am awed at the trust you have placed in me to be a good father and encouraged by the support and strength you offer. Please help me in my quest to fulfill my responsibilities. Show me the ways I might best set a good example and be ever present as I weigh the choices that may shape my children’s lives. Help them understand your role in our family, and may I be a source for them to experience to power of your love. Amen.