As a child, I sometimes used to wonder what life would be like if I’d been born to different parents. Not that I didn’t love my parents, but sometimes I would sit and imagine how much better or easier life would be, if only my parents were richer or more intelligent or famous...
This is quite a sad confession, you might think. But it’s probably not that uncommon.
I expect that many children fantasise about having different parents. Especially when they’ve just been told that they can’t have the latest smart phone or their parents can’t help them with their French coursework…
Far sadder than this, however, is an experiment I was reading about the other day where a group of children were asked to describe what child their parents would like to have had. Apparently none of the children wrote ‘A child just like me.’ Instead, they all wrote things like ‘A child who was cleverer’ ‘A girl who was prettier’ ‘A boy who was good at football’ ‘A boy rather than a girl’ etc etc
This was not only sad but very shocking.
I’m sure that none of these children’s parents had ever said to them directly that they would have preferred a different child. But somehow the children had picked up the inference that their parents would have wanted a child, a perfect child, who was not like them.
We live in a society where family breakups of all kinds are common, where people often feel detached from their roots - sometimes with regret, sometimes with relief.
Nonetheless, we are all imperfect. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. And we are all born into gloriously imperfect families. With family strengths and weaknesses.
If we can learn to accept our families without judgement, we have the opportunity to really learn what relationships are all about and to flourish in those relationships.
More and more, we recognise our society as one that sees the older generation as a burden, an inconvenience and a drain on resources – both time and money. This is not only disrespectful to our elders but also diminishes us too. In the Bible there is a wonderful verse that says if you don’t honour your father and mother ‘your lamp will go out in utter darkness.’ If we can’t show respect and be thankful to those who have given us the gift of life, what hope is there that we have the generosity of heart and spirit to bring any blessing to our world at all?
At the same time, we live in a culture where children seem to be more and more pressured to achieve – at school, in extra curricular activities such as piano playing or junior yoga, and in physical appearance. All this is making our children insecure and joyless. How upsetting it was to read the other day that British children are among the unhappiest in the world. (A recent Children’s Society report looked at 15 diverse countries and ranked England 14th for life satisfaction of its young people, ahead of South Korea, Ethiopia and Romania.)
Jesus said unless you become like a little child you cannot enter the kingdom of God. What he means is that if you don't live life in a wholehearted, generous, trusting and accepting way then you’ll never have the wonderful, joyful, blessed life that could be yours.
So let’s make a start on changing things by telling our parents today that we love them and accept them – for just who they are. With all their mental and physical frailties and needs.
Let’s make a start on changing things by telling our children that we love them and accept them – for just who they are too. With all their problems and weaknesses and demands.
When we truly love someone, we love ALL of them – the good and the not so good. And when we do that, amazing things happen.
A few years ago I worked for a church and in the congregation was a man (let’s call him Jon) who had been paralysed for decades after a sports accident. He was hunched over and could barely move in his wheelchair. His voice was hardly audible and he spoke very slowly. Nonetheless, he was incredibly intelligent, wrote a great blog and was full of faith. I remember saying to my Vicar one day, ‘We should get Jon to preach.’ The Vicar looked at me as though I was crazy but I asked him to let me give it a go.
So a few weeks later, I got Jon mic’ed up for our Wednesday lunchtime service and he delivered a sermon to about 25 of us. With the mic he was audible (thank you, modern technology!) but he struggled painfully to get out his words.
Nonetheless, as he slowly and with incredible effort, gave his message, the congregation listened in absolute attention and were incredibly moved. It felt like we were listening directly to God himself. Somehow out of this terrible weakness, God brought something of enormous power and beauty that touched every one of our hearts.
So let’s not just celebrate our strengths and the strengths of others, let’s celebrate our weaknesses and allow them to be as much a part of our rich and abundant lives as anything else.