As I’m now in my late 30s, my father and I are now peers in many respects. If he wants to give me instruction, I decide whether to listen and if I do, I pick and choose which advice I want to act on – I have my own wisdom and authority.
I understand most of my Dad’s plans and daily activities. I’m not especially interested in hanging around to learn from him – I already know what I need to know. And I do what I want to do, not what he wants. If I don’t approve of what he does, I’ll tell him so, and may complain to my siblings.
My Dad doesn’t provide for my needs – I do, and bear the responsibility and worry for them myself. If, however, I was in trouble, I’d ask him and expect him to help.
My youngest son, however, is four years old. I give him instructions and I require him to obey me, because I know what’s best for him and he does not. He struggles with this from time to time, but accepts it – he knows that I have knowledge and responsibility that he does not. He’s not always happy with what I decide or ask him to do but he never doubts that I have authority over him, have the necessary wisdom to take care of him and love him deeply.
My son does not understand what I do at work or even much of what I do around the house. His response is to want to learn more. He loves to be right by my side, watching, learning and constantly asking ‘what can I do, Daddy?’. His contributions are not especially significant, but I love to involve him for his sake – to see him learn and grow – and because his delight in participating gives me great pleasure as his father.
He knows that he doesn’t provide for his own needs but that his mother and I do. He’s never – not once – been worried about his daily needs, whether he will have food, clothing and shelter tomorrow, because he knows his parents love him and will provide them. And he never stops asking for my help, because he knows I can help him and love to do so.
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:1-3 (NIV)
or as told in The Message, a translation of the mood in the original language:
At about the same time, the disciples came to Jesus asking, “Who gets the highest rank in God’s kingdom?” For an answer Jesus called over a child, whom he stood in the middle of the room, and said, “I’m telling you, once and for all, that unless you return to square one and start over like children, you’re not even going to get a look at the kingdom, let alone get in. Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God’s kingdom.” Matthew 18:1-3 (MESSAGE)
p.s. Love you Dad! 🙂