A father’s love
I was on vacation, sitting in a rocking chair on the porch of a lodge or restaurant somewhere with my oldest daughter, Nal, in my lap. She was 2 years old or so at the time, and had her head on my chest, awake, relaxed as we soaked in the moment.
An older man walked by, smiled, and said “Enjoy it, she’ll be 18 next week!” I remember wincing a bit. Today, Nal is 24 and I’m an “older man.” It’s different now, except for the love I felt in that rocker 22 years ago.
I make a point of smiling and encouraging the parents of toddlers now. Every so often, if one asks for advice, I say “Just love them – the rest is incidental.”
Pressed further, I’d say to hang on, but be prepared to let go. Hang on to them, but be willing to let go of some expectations. At times, what you want for them will be at odds with what they want. Make your case as a man of faith, if you must, then let it go. But don’t let go of your love and prayers for them.
Another thing I’d say is that there are four words that will stick through all the changes. Best to start saying them now.
I first learned about these words as part of a team that visits college students around the US to talk about “What’s next?” One of the questions we ask (4 words) is “who first said I believe in you?” Sadly, some haven’t heard these words, or some variation of them. Those who have heard them, especially from someone they believe in, don’t forget.
Pressed even further, I’d share the last, and perhaps the hardest advice of all…
Carl Jung said, “Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their children than the unlived life of the parent.”
What about the unlived faith? Hope? Love?
The unlived life
Christian faith is about the “going not knowing” description of Abraham (Heb 11:2). It’s about the adventure of stepping into the unknown.
It’s about the kind of hope that you are “prepared to give a reason for” (1 Ptr 3:15). We are carriers of the hope virus.
The Christian ideal of love is a selfless, unconditional, “I love you no matter what” love. It’s wanting what’s best for the other.
It sounds noble, and Christian, to lay down our lives for our children. To mean it when we say that we would step in front of the bullet to die for them. But I think it’s even harder to live for them.
What will you be remembered for?
Recently, Nal introduced me to the music of an artist, who has suffered from lifelong mental illness and recorded “lo fi” music in his parent’s basement with a cassette recorder and an off tune piano. I was haunted by some of the songs. She told me his album changed her life. It made her want to be a writer.
I was haunted even more by her answer when I asked what’s become of the artist.
“Oh,” she said, “he’s just old now.”
He’s my age.
Life is short. Sooner or later, if all goes well, we’ll all wind up old men and women. What will we be remembered for by our children for? Revered for?
My prayer is that they remember the way we loved them, and believed in them. The way we provided an example of hope, and a life fully and faithfully lived.