I want them to see everyone through God's eyes.
I want them to feel empathy for those in need and then be empowered to make a difference.
I want it so badly that when they have a bad attitude while doing parent-imposed service, I pounce on them like a ferocious angry panther.
I think I'm sending mixed messages.
Where do I begin with this? When do I let them choose to do right on their terms instead of watching them throw fits while doing what I'm making them do?
I know they're little. 5, 7, nearly 9. I've got time. But I feel like this is the formative part of their future. This is the foundation for what's normal, what's right, what's good.
This morning I sat and thought about my parents, and their posture toward the world. They obviously had an impact on my current frame of mind. But as I processed my childhood (who needs a couch?), I realized that I don't have any memories of forced service. I don't have an eye twitch from the hours upon hours of park clean ups, homeless ministry, hospital visits and the like that plague my children now. Not to say that I didn't do any of that. I did. I just didn't know that it was service. There were no badges earned. There was no imposed right-doing. There was no preemptive speech in the car that basically boiled down to, "We serve because we're supposed to. Jesus did it! Now stop complaining! Be happy!" In fact, I don't think I was involved in the decision making process at all. My parents were the ones serving. Loving. Being. I was witness to it, and participated without even knowing that it was special. It just was what it was: Life.
In my childhood, I can recall at least seven long-term house guests. I can not remember a single holiday without half a dozen extra-familial faces. I remember sharing what we had with others. I remember visiting the sick and abandoned. I remember praying ceaselessly for friends and strangers. My parents didn't force me out into the world to go do good. They invited people in and loved them. They gave when they had. They accepted when they needed. This was my norm.
My parents served and loved before it was cool. Because don't kid yourself. Right now, it's cool. It's a new missional trend in the church. It's a new helping-hand world we live in. Even "Idol Gives Back". How do we make it through? How do we ride this wave and still be standing when we reach the shore?
Right now, the kids get rewarded for doing the right thing. They earn rewards from their scouting organizations, they receive verbal praise and recognition, and sometimes they receive ice cream from their briber. I mean, mother. I continue to serve along side of them in their efforts. I think that the routine of service is good. And eventually, the reward is intrinsic within the service. In the end, they'll get it. (I think we don't really notice that there's people besides ourselves in the world until about 21 anyway.) All this is good. I'm fine with the whining and emotional scarring for now (they can work it out later). But the focus, the long lasting foundation, is in the unspoken moments. It's when I'm doing, and they're by my side. What's my posture? What's my attitude when I think nobody is watching? Who am I inviting into my life to bless and be blessed by?
So... there's work to be done. In my heart. It starts with me. And out of my overflow, they'll gather the seeds of love and service and sacrifice, and someday -- God willing -- they'll begin to bear their own fruit.