I have many memories of my father. Most of them are filed away in the “everyday moments” corner of my mind, comfortably mundane until some occasion or conversation pulls them into relevance. Of the few that hold a special place at the forefront of my mind, however, one stands out.
I was standing in a church service one hot Sunday morning. It was during school holidays – I couldn’t have been more that 10 at the time – so I was allowed the honour of staying with my family in “big peoples church”. At some point during the worship I felt a hand on my head. This puzzled me, because most of the other hands I could see were holding up the air or tucked away discretely. When we finally sat down, I asked my dad why he touched my head like that. “I was praying for you, my boy”, was the simple reply.
You can ask anyone who knows me well – my memory is awful. I forget conversations five minutes after I’ve had them, yet this moment is still there, almost 20 years later. I can’t tell you with any certainty why it stuck, but what it did do was leave me with something that would shape the course of my life.
Dads, listen up. Your kids will notice the little things you do, and will remember moments you may think completely irrelevant at the time. But most importantly, they will remember how you make them feel.
My dad prayed for us many times while we lived under the same roof, but that moment all those years ago planted the conviction in me:
I am worthy of his notice and time.
Although somewhat battered and bruised by life, the conviction remains deep in me; if my dad cared for me like that, I must be worthy of being cared for. And that, I am coming to realise, is no small thing. Even you, reading this, might be all too familiar with that aching desire to feel worth someone else’s time, to feel worth being cared for.
Jesus didn’t speak lightly when he called the children to himself, or chastised adults for causing them trouble and leading them astray. The stuff that happens when you are young really sticks with you. But you know that, right?
So plant good stuff in your children’s lives.
Be intentional about leaving quality memories. Give them bright moments like lampposts, affirming their right to be noticed, cared for and loved. Give them a trail of security, because when life starts battering at that belief, they will need that light to find their way through.
And one day, when they realise that dad did actually know what he was talking about, they may even thank you for it.