I’m no early bird, but once I’m up, I’m up. My son does not share this trait. He will sleep as deeply as he can for as long as he can. No amount of cajoling him in the mornings will ever convince him that waking up is a worthwhile activity. So I’m always more than a little surprised when he gets out of bed with no help from me.
That was the case this morning.
Today was picture day at school. Before we went to bed last night I reminded him we’d have to wake up early so I could fix his hair. I wanted him to look his best when he got his picture taken. Not five minutes after I woke up this morning and while I was still clearing the cobwebs myself, I heard his feet hit the floor upstairs. This was soon followed by the sound of him padding carefully down the steps to the bottom of the staircase where he stopped and looked at me as I was in front of my bathroom mirror.
“Good morning, dad,” he said brightly and clearly.
“Good morning!”
“Are you gonna fix my hair?”
You need to understand something at this point in the story. My child’s hair only gets fixed for school for two reasons: pictures and wacky hair day. Any other day of the year he’s going on with his hair however he woke up at of bed. There are more than a few really good reasons for this, not the least of which being I’m usually just glad to get him out the door with all his clothes on and not be late.
I explained he’d need to get dressed first and we’d fix his hair last thing before we left. He put on a new pair of pants I had bought him and picked out a shirt he thought would look the best for a picture. He walked into the bathroom and told me he was ready.
I got out some fixative and worked it into his hair and combed and styled his hair. He looked in the mirror and was very pleased with the result. We jumped in the car and went to school where I dropped him off and went about my business for the day.
When I picked him up off the bus this afternoon, he patted the top of his head as soon as he saw me.
“My hair fell down,” he sighed.
“I see that. Did it at least stay up long enough to get your picture taken?”
“It’s because it got wet in the rain,” he continued, ignoring my question.
“Was it still fixed when you took your picture?” I persisted.
“I don’t remember.”
Now, whether or not my son’s hair was picture perfect doesn’t really matter a lot to me, but I’d certainly be happier if it was. Either way I’m looking forward to seeing his snaggletoothed little grin in his school pictures.
It seemed important to him to have his hair fixed this morning, but upon reflection, I wonder if it was important to him because it was important to me. I forget sometimes that his values are often reflections of my own. Lots of things are important to him because they’re important to me or his mother. He does things to make us happy and give us pride, even when we don’t realize he’s doing it.
That’s a heavy responsibility. It reminds me that I have to keep my priorities straight. He’s watching every move, listening to every word, and building his world based on the examples the adults in his life give. One of these days I’m going to send him out into the world as a product of all the values and morals and priorities I’ve instilled in him.
I hope he follows what I say much more than what I do. Sometimes it scares me for him that he could possibly turn out like me. I want so much more for him than that. I have higher expectations of him than that. But it would also be very unfair of me to try to get him to be better than me without providing an example to do that. If I want him to be better than me, I have to be better than I am.
I think that gets to the heart of why Jesus became human. He wanted us to be better, but he knew that required showing us how to be better. Simply telling us through imperfect people was never going to be effective enough. He had to give us his all to get us to be what we need to be.
When we give the very best of ourselves to others so that they can be the best version of themselves, we’ve tapped into the kind of love that Paul describes in his first letter to the Corinthians. And I have to agree with Paul, there simply isn’t anything better than to be loved like that.
“Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
1 Corinthians 13:4-7