From time to time I drive by a car with a bumper sticker that reads: Proud Parent of an Honor Student.
And to be honest, it always worries me a little.
I understand the intention behind it of course; the idea that a mom or dad wants to publicly celebrate their child’s academic achievement. I’m a pretty gushing dad myself, and I love when my kids accomplish something, when they have a personal victory, or when they are noticed by their peers and caretakers as doing something special or noteworthy.
But beyond just bumper stickers, I wonder what message our children are getting, when we most passionately and explicitly acknowledge them in the times in which they win.
As a Christian, I’m just not so sure that Jesus really wants greatness for my kids.
So much of Jesus’ teachings were about “the last being first” and about becoming “servant of all”. His was and is a manifesto of smallness and kindness and goodness. Jesus continually lifted up the sacredness of sacrifice, the great dignity in humility, the God-reflective nature of forgiveness.
But sacrifice, humility, and forgiveness don’t make for great bumper stickers, do they?
I absolutely want my kids to squeeze out every ounce of talent and intelligence and potential that God has placed within them, so that they can live lives that they can be proud of and so that the world can be beautifully changed by their presence.
But I also want them to know that being known or making a name for themselves isn’t what this life is all about.
I want them to be good listeners and good tippers and to care for the hurting and to care for the environment and to live generously.
I want them to have manners and to tell the truth and to forgive easily and to put others ahead of themselves.
I want them to love people, regardless of their condition or place in life or whether they are particularly lovable to them.
I want them to find their worth in their ability to find the worth in others.
I want them to know that their value is not defined by a bank account or by any award or accolade that can be measured or bought.
If they live that way and happen to have some residual stuff that people deem success, fine. But if not, they will still be successful in my eyes.
You can have your great children.
I want children who reek of goodness.
When you’re out on the road, look for me.
I’ll be the guy in the car with the big ol’ bumper sticker that reads: Proud Parent of Two Really Good Kids.
The words of John Pavlovitz.