On my desk there spins a block of glass, glowing blue, then green, then red. Inside the glass is the ghostly shape of a tree and words that you might find in a greeting card:
You are a
source of strength,
a teacher and a guide.
You are the one
that’s looked up to,
with loving trust
It’s one of those sentimental, one-size-fits-all gifts that you find in the hallways of shopping malls in a kiosk next to Cell-Phone City and the Piercing Pagoda. It was a Christmas gift from my children, which means that it was a Christmas gift from my wife.
When I opened it, I was happy. Not because it was the gift I had secretly always wanted, but because of the look on my kids’ faces as I opened it. They were happy to see their daddy open his present, but were absolutely thrilled that they’d made it so long without letting slip what it would be.
My wife asked the question a bit hesitantly, “Do you like it?”
“Of course I do.”
She smiled and said, this time more triumphantly, “I knew you would”, and then launched into the story of how she picked it out, how special the message was, and how it would look great on my desk next to the placard reminding me that “we are a NORMAL family.”
It was the kind of gift that I would almost never buy. Pre-made sentimentalism has always made me groan. Whenever I shop for greeting cards, I always look for the one with the least text and the most white space. I self-righteously grumble as I dig through the shelves, “words of love and appreciation should be original and spontaneous.” And yet I treasure this gift because of the ones who gave it. The words etched into the glass are pre-manufactured, but are meaningful. They become authentic when I see them alive, though unspoken, in the eyes of my wife and kids.
Truth be told, the message in the glass is one that I need. As a father, I have responsibility. The time I spend with my kids matters. The words I use as I speak to them matters. The attitudes I model for them matters. I am their teacher, and the discipline I help to instill in them will bear fruit in their relationship with God and neighbor. At this point in our lives, I have their “loving trust and pride”, but what I do now will determine whether or not it remains true of our relationship in the future. Those are precious gifts not to be squandered.
In a month or so I will be preaching at my home church out of Colossians 3:18-21. The passage contains these words:
“Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.”
I find that as I attempt to teach my children the concept of obedience (which does not appear to be an innate quality in either of them) it is easy to forget my own responsibility to do so with some measure of gentleness and reservation. And so I have a glowing reminder on my desk. A reminder of my responsibility, and a reminder of the warmth in their eyes that I stand to loose if, by my harshness, I drive them away from me and the God that I desperately want them to know and love.