One of my favorites movies is the Thomas Crown affair. It’s a remake of an old 60’s gem starring Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo. It’s about a rich tycoon who, straddled by boredom in his life, gives way to adventure through performing masterful heists of rare paintings in big time museums. In a scene where Russo, the sleuth hired to figure all this out, visits an imprisoned art hustler who got jailed for painting the fake masterpieces the tycoon would put in the original’s place. The prisoner looks at the painting with a subtle, yet distinct grin. Russo can’t figure out what it was about the prisoner’s face as he says, “sorry that’s not mine.” Later in the movie it’s discovered that the artist who actually painted the near indistinguishable fake was…the prisoners daughter! Russo later exclaims, “Now I know what that look on his face was about. It was pride.”
The pride that happens in Parenting comes in all packages. And if you are a parent you know it doesn’t take much for our children to make our hearts beam with a joy that can hardly be matched. The first time they swim on their own. When they obey a gentle command on the first mention. When they help their sibling. If they say something clever and quick. When they score a goal at their otherwise completely scoreless soccer game. Then later on when they score an A- on an exam. When they tell the truth and confess they screwed up. When they score a big goal at the BIG game. When we drop them off at college. When they pick the right spouse. When they walk down the aisle. When they hand us our first grandchild. Our children can bring so much joy.
But perhaps those deep breaths of refreshment are enhanced by all the gasps for air in between. Let’s face it—half of parenting is praying to God that in the name of Jesus this kid will make something of himself or herself some day. Because right now the evidence suggests that this child has lost his ever loving mind. This isn’t a King David or an Esther I’m raising. This is an uncircumcised Philistine!! But those Goliath days are sanctifying for us are they not? What parent hasn’t stared in the eyes of a boisterous child who just doesn’t get it and thought to themselves, “yeah Lord I hear ya. I do this to you all the time.”
For the parent children are often mirrors sent by God we never really asked for. When we get consumed with this noble task of raising the world’s most perfect child it’s hard to realize that God hasn’t given us children solely for us to raise them. But the truth is God has also given us children that He might continue raising us. This is what happens when the frustrations of a “rough season” in parenting mount so unbelievably high that we are forced to prayer, and gospel community, and literal begging before the Lord asking him to touch the heart of our child. The frustrations of those rough seasons coupled with that longing to flash those subtle, yet distinctive grins immersed in pride force us to a broken place whereby we cry out, “Lord whatever you wanna do here I’m game. I’ll lay down my best sense of how this child’s life should go and gladly swap it for yours O God. Just bless this child.”
And perhaps…well it’s not a perhaps. In actuality this is where the Lord wants us. Deeply aware of our need not just for His hand to grace our children but for His hand to grace us as well. Aware of our neediness. Aware that there’s only one truly good parent—Jesus is His name.
Until then may we parent our sweet little rug rats the way a great Dad in Heaven has parented us—with subtle, yet distinctive grins of affirmation and acceptance and approval along the way. Because there is no greater fuel for our children’s souls than a parent who is proud of them and who grabs them on either side of their cheeks constantly, pulls them close and says, “Dear Son…Dear Daughter…I’m soooo proud of you.”
I hear ya. Rick what if there’s nothing worthy of being proud of? I hear ya. But scale back on those days where you’d sinned, you’d fallen, you’d made a huge mess of things. And maybe it was during a sermon about a God who restored an adulterous King David. Maybe it was during a song where the psalmist said “he’ll take the pain away.” Maybe it was during a coffee with a friend who said, “you’re gonna make it.” And you realize that there were days where, for you too, there was nothing worthy of God being proud of yet He pulled close to you and, in His own way, flashed a subtle, yet distinctive grin. Yeah. Now do that for your kids. And it matters not their age. As an old believer back in Memphis exclaimed to us one time, “I picked up my kids, and kissed their cheeks with shouts of pride until the day their feet would hit the floor.”
I was a football player. Because I’m a Jenkins kid and that’s what Jenkins kids did. We wore #22. Because that’s what Jenkins kids did. Football is an emotional game. You’re on cloud 9 when you did something right. And it was a torrent of shame when you did something wrong. All you wanted to do was please your teammates and your coach. But because it was competition the games were up and down. But there was a constant on this Friday Nights—my Mama’s screams.
Didn’t matter if I was scoring a touchdown. Didn’t matter if I was catching a pass. And I soon came to realize that, for Mama, it didn’t matter if I was on the bench. That woman was screaming—Hit em hard Ricky! You can do it mighty pirate you can do it hey hey! And what’s more she’d walk down the bleachers where the band was. My brother Jacques was a drummer. And she’d embarrass us just as much by being the only Mom to cheer on the band because one of her boys was there too!
O how awkward it was then. But now as I see that the same fuel is air for my children’s souls I realize she knew that there’d be days we’d question our worth and our identity and our place in the world. And I think she knew that one day there’d be a need for a soundtrack playing in the back of our hearts telling us that we too are worthy to walk in Christ’s redeeming love because of what He has done for us. So whether winning or losing, she would scream for us. And O…how’d she scream.
So whether it be another day on the zoom call where your child is encumbered with the rigor of learning at home. Whether it be the crux of not being able to go where she’s used to going and she’s struggling to figure out friendships in a pandemic. Whether it be the madness of finding the scholarship money for his college career. Whether she’s in a ditch in her marriage right now and you’re biting your nails hoping she figures it out. Whether he be sick with a bout of disease or illness. Whether they themselves are now in the seat of parenting not sure how to show up for your grandchild. I encourage YOU to scream. Scream out a text of affirmation, a visit for approval, a card for appreciation. A subtle, yet distinctive grin. And fuel their hearts and souls.
For a day is coming where we shall meet the Master of all Parents. And the words every child longs to hear shall be screamed out among Heaven’s gates—Well done good and faithful servant. Well done. I imagine on my Savior’s face there shall flash a splendid subtle, yet distinctive grin.
Hang in there parent. You got this. Because the Master Parent? He has you. And O how he screams.