We just got through with Homecoming, and it was a blast. It was so much fun to watch our kids get dressed up; observing the awkward date retrieval ritual (so much more fun from the”observer” perspective than the “retriever” perspective); enjoying the slight undercurrent of fear on the part of my girls’ dates at watching them walk into the headmaster’s house to pick up his daughters (sadistic, I know, but still kind of fun- rank does have its privileges!), seeing all of the parents gathering around, taking more pictures than the paparazzi accosting Brad and Angelina at the Academy Awards.
As I was enjoying the whole thing, I couldn’t help think…..this was costing us a lot of jack! The dresses, the photos, the dinner, the mums the size of small recreational vehicles—Homecoming is one expensive proposition. As Americans, we spend a lot of money on our kids. I know we’ve all seen the statistics—regardless of how much money we feel like we have, if you’re a middle-class American, you’re well off relative to everyone else. And, statistically speaking, you spend a lot of that on your kids.
We also know, however, that for the most part, money tends to screw kids up. If we were really honest with ourselves, most of us would say that we’re pretty messed up in our perspectives toward money, that our parents (who, God love them, were probably just doing the best they could) contributed to messing us up, and Lord knows what we’re doing to our kids. I once heard a really smart, successful guy named Alan Barnhart say, “My wife and I want to give our kids a rich inheritance, and I’m learning that doesn’t have much to do with money.” So, I’ve been kind of wrestling with that issue: how do we give our kids a rich inheritance, lives that are truly rich for the Lord? As best as I’ve been able to figure it, it involves several things:
–Loving Jesus and being compassionate for others. I know this is the “Sunday school answer”, but I don’t see how my kids can develop the gratefulness necessary to appreciate life in all of its beauty and abundance for what it is, and not for what they don’t have, without a love for Jesus and an appreciation of what He’s done for them. In those times that I’m really walking closely with the Lord, sensitive to the heart of the Father who said I’m worth dying for, I’m so much more aware of the blessings around me: great conversations, great relationships, beauty in life. I put away that low-grade level of tired, whiny discontent that I really hate about myself and that undermines my gratefulness. And, with that whiny discontent in the trunk of my life, I spend more time looking outward at those God has put in my path who are really hurting, who really do have pain and problems, and I start seeing how I can be an oasis of blessing in their lives.
–An open hand with everything I have. I’m a really slow learner, and I’m just now learning to keep everything—my time, my talents, and my money—in an open hand, with everything available for His use. I kind of find myself playing tug-of-war with God at times, but on those occasions where I’m just….unreservedly available, it’s a kind of freedom that I’ve really never known. In those times when I’m living open-handedly, I’m giving more of everything I have away than at any time before in my life, and I’m having way more fun doing it. And, I think my kids are seeing it, and they’re catching onto it, too.
–Being a hard worker. I know there’s a lot of talk out there today about how hard our kids work, but it seems to me as though they have more leisure time than ever before. If you have time to take a picture of every meal you eat and post it on Facebook or Instagram, how busy are you, really? Athletics, fine arts, and academics are disciplines—they involve a significant time commitment to master. In “Outliers”, Malcolm Gladwell famously notes that it takes about 10,000 hours of dedicated practice to master anything. I catch myself griping about how much homework my kids have in their presence, and that’s not good. Instead, I need to be encouraging them to buckle down, work hard, and master what they do, doing it diligently as unto the Lord. In those times when Ashley and I are working at night on something, and the girls see us working, they gripe a lot less and work a lot more. I know this may sound kind of “Tiger Dad-ish”, but I’ve tried it both ways and I think I serve them better this way.
Which brings me to my last point. Anything I’ve ever really taught my kids that was worth learning was taught by living. Loving Jesus, being compassionate, living life open- handedly, and working hard start with me. If I don’t cultivate these things in my life, I’m just a shallow guy with (statistically speaking) a lot of money. I’m praying God will use this really messed up guy to make my kids rich in the things that matter.