My children have a wonderful way of teaching me important life lessons, as a parent. In fact, I often feel that they are teaching me as much or more about growing up than I am teaching them. They've pointed out that I need to show more compassion and empathy, that I often fail to communicate and explain things clearly, or that I need to give them undivided attention and that just being near them doesn't count. None of these things have come in the way of a lecture from my 5 or 4 year old, but rather in the simple things they say.
One thing that I have noticed my son saying a lot lately when I ask him what he wants for breakfast is, "I'll have what you're having, Daddy!" Aside from having to figure out what I actually want for breakfast, which is no small feat if my coffee hasn't woken my mind up yet, it gets me thinking about what I am passing on to my children, both intentionally and unintentionally.
The reality is that, my kids are going to literally have what I'm having in life. If I'm experiencing joy and peace in life they are going to experience the byproduct of a joyfully and peacefully lived life. If I am experiencing turmoil, strife, and discontent they are, unfortunately, going to live within that byproduct as well. My attitude, the way I speak to them, and the situations I put them in will directly impact them.
However, there is an aspect to this that often gets overlooked: the spiritual inheritance. In Genesis we see Abraham use dishonesty to try and protect himself when he feared the king would kill him for his wife. His son, Isaac, told the exact same lie in the same situation. Then Isaac had Jacob who lied to him to steal his brother's birthright and regularly used deception to get ahead in life. David had a wandering eye which came to light through his affair with Bathsheba. His son, Solomon, born of Bathsheba, would go on to be king but would forsake his relationship with God for the religions of all the foreign women he married. Whether these repetitions of their fathers' weaknesses were genetic or learned traits, I don't know. However, after several years in youth ministry I have seen first hand that there is often a tendency to repeat the patterns of parents.
Now, when my son says, "I'll have what you're having!" it's a sobering reminder that he most definitely will. It's a sobering reminder that I need to work hard every day to grow in my relationship with Jesus and be conformed to his image. And I pray it's a sobering reminder for you to do the same.
Nick Higgins is the Associate Pastor at Kenai New Life.