Lessons a Father Learned from His Children
by Jon Gauger
What if we actually believed that kids have something to teach us—rather than the other way around? As parents, we’re hardwired to believe that when it comes to life lessons, the instruction always flows from us to our children. But could it be that some of us are largely blind and deaf to the life lessons our children are trying to impart to us? I continue to be amazed at the lessons kids have tried to teach me. Could I share three of them with you?
Timmy was great company as we cruised around town running errands. The six-year-old was chatty and charming as we drove here, stopped there, dropped off and picked up. With all the boxes finally checked off on my to-do list, I turned to Timmy and said, “Well, looks like we’ve got everything done. So—what’s on your list?”
He thought a second and said, “I didn’t know my list was going to be important.” He did not say this with an edge of any kind, and at six years of age, he wasn’t sophisticated enough for sarcasm. Timmy was genuinely happy that his “list” might be of importance to me. A smile never carried such a sting, as I pondered that I rarely considered his list of any importance.
Exactly how often do we convey to our kids that their wants, their dreams, the items on their “list” are important to us? I’m not suggesting we spoil our little ones. In truth, we dare not say yes to their every whim. But just like us, they need regular reminders that their list is important—that they are important.
Yet we must also ask, how often does my spouse get the sense that her/his list is important? What about my friends and their lists? And most important of all, how often does the layout of my life suggest God’s list is important (He has a list, you know). The question is—does my life (not merely my words) suggest that list is important to me?
After a lashing summer rainstorm, the lightning finally ceased and the sun made a dramatic return, backlighting dramatic cloud formations that caught the eye of five-year-old Lynnette. Our daughter had just received Christ, and one of the tools instrumental in her faith journey was the book My Friend Jesus. The book described the majesty of heaven and featured dramatic renditions of clouds.
Lynnette peered out of our car’s windshield at the glowing thunderheads and inquired, “Daddy, is that where Jesus lives—up there in those clouds?” I remarked, “Honey, Jesus lives higher than the highest clouds!” She was silent—but anyone could see her mind was churning. Finally, she blurted, “You know, when you’re a Christian, you wonder about Jesus.” There was no mistaking her emphasis on the word “wonder.”
Immediately, I was slammed with the question, when was the last time I actually wondered about Jesus? We go to church and sing about Jesus. Talk about Jesus. Preach about Jesus. Pray to Jesus. But when was the last time I really wondered about Jesus? He was the one who told us to “consider” the lilies of the field (Matt. 6:28), yet most of us barely even glance. Here is a lesson I need to engage!
There is more subtlety in a stick of dynamite than in the two-year-old we know and adore as Ava. But once her magnificent blue eyes lock with yours—especially while she flashes her impish grin—you will be reduced to play dough in her chunky hands.
Ava recently spent a Saturday with us, amusing and entertaining my wife and me from breakfast through late afternoon. The two-year-old tutor also tried to teach me a lesson along the way.
It started when I coughed. Ava immediately whipped her head away from what she was doing and asked, “You okay?” Her extended eye-contact lent sincerity to the moment that caught me off guard.
Later that morning she heard my wife, Diana, sneeze. “Are you okay?” she again intoned, a living picture of care and comfort. Sensing my struggle in attempting to repair the door of our mailbox, she once again inquired, “You okay?” The thing is, Ava lingers and listens for your response. She really wants to know!
But what if you and I asked each other the same question with the same sincerity as Ava? What if we regularly looked lovingly at our spouse or neighbor and inquired, “You okay?”
What if friends and coworkers heard from our mouth, “You okay?” And what if we followed that question with that rarest of gifts—our undivided attention? What if the one thing that defined our reputation was the willingness to ask—and listen—for the answer to that lovely question, “You okay?” Wouldn’t the world outside find the Jesus inside us irresistible?
Like a butterfly kiss from your favorite tot, these stories cause our souls to brush up against the face of Jesus who whispers again, “Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” So here’s to listening—really listening—to the lessons children might well be trying to teach us!
Jon Gauger, author of Kids Say the Wisest Things, hosts several nationally syndicated programs for Moody Radio and is an award-winning narrator of more than 45 audio books. His weekly blog, The Thursday Thought, is available at jongauger.com.
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