We've had a busy day, and we're tired. Settled into our laptop spots in the living room, interacting with the world out there, and even a little bit with each other.
Our 6 year-old, Jonathan, has a buddy spending the night at our house tonight, so he is more excited than usual. We Redboxed a movie and a Wii game for our boys and Jonathan's friend, but the kids have instead gravitated toward the Legos in the bedrooms, which is a cool reminder that kids like to play, don't need much help doing it, and adults don't need to plan every minute of their lives for them.
But here's what just happened, that I am praying I will never forget:
Jonathan has a little thing he does now and then, when he is listening to the radio in his bedroom. We keep his radio tuned to K-Love, and his favorite artist is Toby Mac. When a Toby Mac song comes on, we usually find out about it when Jonathan comes running down the hall and, without a word, turns on the radio in the kitchen so we can hear the song too.
The best part is hearing his sweet, six year-old voice singing along with one of his heroes.
The lyrics to "Get Back Up" or "Me Without You" take on a whole new relevance when sung by your child.
Tonight, sometime after Kristi and I had drifted into laptopland, and the kids in Legoland had faded into the background, I became aware that the kitchen radio was playing, at pretty decent volume, and Jonathan's voice could be heard singing along with Toby Mac's new hit, "Speak Life". The spirit was contagious, and I couldn't resist singing along, too.
It was then that I realized the radio in Jonathan's room was on, and that he had done his usual thing, playing K-Love in his room, and turning on the kitchen radio to let everyone share in the joy of Toby Mac.
So, what about this meant so much to me on this particular night? He has done this many times; it's not a new thing. Why such a big deal?
The difference tonight is that a guest is here.
I am amazed and overjoyed that our son behaved exactly the same way in front of a buddy that he normally behaves when he is alone with us. He played the same music, shared the same joy, sang with the same gusto, and did it all without the slightest hint of hesitation, inhibition, embarrassment, or shame.
He didn't change a thing on account of a guest being present.
I distinctly remember doing quite the opposite while I was growing up.
Don't get me wrong; I'm not naive enough to think our six year-old will never experience embarrassment about the norms of his household when his friends come over. And I don't maintain any illusions that he will never behave differently with friends than he will in front of us. The innocence I saw tonight will not remain unspotted throughout our son's youth; I get that.
But what if....Can I even say it? What if...
What if, somehow, it could be?
A child growing up with such a sense of identity that it didn't matter who knew who he really was? A kid who knew it was OK to be honest? A boy or girl who could just sing their true song in their true voice, regardless of who would hear?
Of course, this transparency works both ways.
Just as an uninhibited child will share faith and family norms with friends, he or she will also express differences in faith and family norms with the very family who so carefully instilled those things. Parents can't ask for one, and not accept the other.
How do we raise children who will let shine the light God has placed within them, in front of friend, foe, or stranger, without feeling an obligation to filter, dim, or shade the light, or put it out altogether? Kids who will grow up into men and women free of guile? People who are who they appear to be? Husbands, wives, parents, and friends who sing the song their spirit is moved to sing, without shame?
When do our masks begin to form?
God, let us as parents nurture the sensitive flame of your spirit in the hearts of our children.
Father, let us never blow it out.