On Monday evening, while eating a late dinner, we watched The Voice. Elias, my five-year-old, is the slowest eater on the planet and without fail, is always the last one in the family to finish his meal. As Jessica and I began taking plates and cups to the kitchen and folding up TV trays, Elias shouts “Daddy! Daddy, is that a boy or a girl? Because they look like a boy and a girl. I can’t tell.”
I walked back into the living room and Elias, wearing a slight curious grin, further explained his comment. “Daddy, this singer…” He points at the television. “They sounded like a girl, but they looked sort of like a girl and a boy.” As he tried to explain, his five-year-old brain was working over time, trying his hardest to put into words what he was thinking. Finally, he shrugged his shoulders and said, “It was funny.”
I stopped what I was doing, turned the television’s volume down, and gave him my full attention. “Well, buddy, here’s the thing. Sometimes it is hard to tell if a person is a boy or a girl. Even daddy finds it hard to tell sometimes.”
“But why?” he said.
“It really depends. Sometimes a person makes a choice to dress more like a boy or girl and other times they dress or look a certain way because that’s how God made them…”
And just before I was about to lose his attention, I added, “but the important thing is to love people no matter what they look like and to not to poke fun. Okay? Because that’s what God asks us to do. We love people no matter who they are…”
Now, the truth is, I doubt that Elias fully comprehended that short conversation. And that’s okay. I, however, did comprehend it. And though it was a short exchange, it was another step in a long journey toward instilling the value of love and acceptance into my son’s psyche, to equip him with the freedom and grace to love and value all people.
As a parent, I think a lot about what I’m proactively teaching my kids. Because I want my words to empower them to think about God and life differently than how I was raised to think. But it’s not just that. My prayer for my kids is that God will allow them to be a part of the path forward, that their little minds would be protected from prejudices, that they will love actively all people.
That’s a mouthful, I know. And perhaps it’s a lofty goal, an idea that only happens on “Care Bears” or “Sesame Street.” But why shouldn’t we try to give our kids the tools to embrace all people? Sure, unreasonable and hateful people will eventually come into their lives. But my hope is that they won’t be the people who do the hating or who are unreasonable or who bully others. And learning those lessons begin at home. And I’d rather those lessons be proactively presented by me, somebody they know and trust, somebody who they see and interact with all the time, somebody who has apologized to them on a number of occasions for using a mean or ugly tone when talking to them.
I know a lot of Christians talk about wanting to change the world. Which is all fine and good, I suppose. But honestly, that’s not what I wake up thinking about everyday. The thoughts and ideas that consume my heart are centered on how I’m going to empower my kids to love. I want to gift them with the permission to be abundant in their affections for others. I want to do my best to not weigh down their heads and hearts with a list of people or ideas that limit or complicate their understanding of God, God’s love, and God’s hope that we will love people—all people.
I want to empower them with a grace so big that they love dangerously, without fear, without all of the “Christian stuff” that so many of us had to overcome in order to love. Cuz love shouldn’t be something that people must survive, it should empower them to live, thrive, and hope.