Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Essence of Cool

"We're on a mission from God."

If your lips don't stretch into a wry smile as your mind conjurs up Dan Aykroyd's voice delivering this perfect line, then you have no idea what I'm talking about. But you will.

One of the great gifts I received from my Dad in my youth was a fondness for a sanitized-for-TV version of The Blues Brothers, a 1980 movie I later learned, with great surprise, was actually littered with profanities galore. But not the version I watched, the version I came to love and have quoted from often. The characters, the dialogue, the implausible plot, my first sighting of Carrie Fisher outside of Star Wars, all made impressions on me, but nothing from this movie has stuck with me like the music. From James Brown to Aretha Franklin, from Ray Charles to the Peter Gunn Theme; it just never stops.

Does it seem to you that Dads are blessed with a very special task:  to pass along to their children at least one piece of cultural rot that Mom finds especially heinous? Mom tolerated The Blues Brothers fairly well, but on one occasion, when I took my obsessive Jake & Elwood routine a little too far, Mom responded with, "David, that was a terrible movie. Nobody even liked it when it came out....except your Dad."

And that was all I needed to know.

Moms, there are not enough words to capture the imprint you leave in the hearts of your children, how deeply you influence who they are. But Dads, among all the things you do, there is one thing you do better than anyone else while your kids are little: You define cool. You are the essence of hip. Your cred is beyond question, your playlist the ultimate, your language of anger the boundary of acceptable, your lens the litmus test for good taste. Yes, you fall hopelessly out of touch with anything resembling cool for awhile, but it always comes back to you, and your kids who believed they would reinvent the wheel end up resembling you in more ways than their physical features and mannerisms.

Why would God entrust you with this kind of influence?

He had to have known that millions of Dads around the world, throughout all of human history, would take this Kitchen Aid hand mixer of children's minds and do terrible things with it. But there it is, nonetheless. The opportunity to write in a language we scarcely comprehend, stir and season a stew we barely realize is cooking, and be the conductor on a train ride whose track we build as we go, and most of us end up wishing we could build over again.

The opportunity to capture the slightest glimpse, for a fleeting moment, of God's perspective on His creation is one of the most amazing gifts He gives. He actually lets us see what it's like to be Him, to love someone else so fully, so selflessly, not because of anything they have done to deserve it, but because they are yours. To want to be in communion with them so badly you are willing to give up anything...anything, to build the bridge to make it possible.

Dads, whether or not you realize it in the moment, you are being held up by your Father so you can reach your face to the telescope to look through and just barely make out things He sees with perfect clarity, and wants you to see so you can understand Him.

And that's your job now with your sons and daughters.

Hold them up so they can get a glimpse of the Father you see more clearly than you ever did before, now that you're a Dad. They will listen to you, if you will show them. Even if they don't listen now, your words will never be forgotten, and they will take root someday, Dads. Have faith, plant the seed, water the soil.

Look to your Father, and make sure your kids see you doing it.

A mission from God, indeed.

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