For Benedictine University and MySpiritualAdvisor.com, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 5/20/2012The 7th Sunday of Easter.
Please pause this audio and read John 17:6-19.
Moms and Dads, “Quality Time” is a myth.
God is our example for parenting. God gives us not just quality time, but quantity time. When he wanted to reach out to us, he didn’t come in a flashy way. He didn’t indulge us as at every turn. When God wanted us to know he loved us, he gave us his presence in Jesus and the Holy Spirit. What our children need is our presence. Our presence is good enough.
In 1974 the singer Harry Chapin wrote what is considered a soft rock classic called “Cat’s in the Cradle.” The song is about a man who is too busy for his children. The song reads like a poem. I would like to share a portion of it with you.
My child arrived just the other day; He came to the world in the usual way, but there were planes to catch and bills to pay, he learned to walk while I was away. He was talkin’ ‘fore I knew it, and as he grew, he’d say: “I’m gonna be like you, dad, you know I’m gonna be like you.”
The cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon, little boy blue and the man in the moon. “When you comin’ home, Dad?” “I don’t know when, but we’ll get together then, you know we’ll have a good time then.”
After several instances of how he was NOT there for his children, Chapin sang this,
I’ve long since retired, my son’s moved away. I called him up just the other day. I said, ‘I’d like to see you if you don’t mind.” He said, “I’d love to, Dad, if I could find the time. You see, my new job’s a hassle and the kids have the flu, but it’s sure nice talking with you, Dad. It’s sure nice talking to you. As I hung up the phone, it occurred to me, He’d grown up just like me. My boy was just like me.
Newsweek had an article many years ago now with the cover, “Busting the Myth of Quality Time.” It points out what Harry Chapin and Christianity have known for centuries, that it is not just the quality, but the quantity of time you spend with your children that makes the difference. The article says, “A growing number of psychologists and educators who work with children would like to get rid of the whole idea of quality time.” It quoted Ronald Levant, a one-time psychologist at Harvard Medical School, he said, “Children need vast amounts of parental time and attention. It’s an illusion to think they’re going to be on your timetable, and that you can say, “OK, we’ve got a half hour, let’s get on with it.” Parents need to be with their children when there are quiet and calm times so that kids will know that their parents will be there in hard times. Both sources tell us that the greatest gift anyone can give is their presence.
I was often amazed as a pastor when I went to homes after a loved one had died. I know it will be hard for you to believe, but when I went I didn’t say much as a rule, unless I was asked. Afterwards, what amazed me, was that people would tell me, you did such a nice job! All I did was stand there, or sit there. It was the knowing that someone who represented the presence of God was there that made the difference. It is a kind of “you know who your friends are when trouble comes around” kind of thing. Those who will be with us in our hour of need are those who truly love us. By just being there and not trying to change the whole situation, you let them know that you accept them for who they are. You let them know you will love them in their space and their time with no conditions.
How is it that God the Father shows he loves us? In hour of greatest need, that is when we were weak, ungodly, and his enemies due to our ignoring him, he sent his Son to be his presence among us. He revealed his essence, his whole being to us through the giving of his time and energy. He held nothing back. He sacrificed all of himself to show how much he loves us. He allowed himself to be humiliated at the hands of his own creation. He allowed himself to be spit on and mocked. He, who created the universe with the mere speaking of words, allowed his own creation to nail him to a cross. Why? So that he could put in our place the God-man who would take all that separates us from God and make us free. Even more than that, so that he could give himself to us selflessly, while we were weak, ungodly, lonely and just as we were and are.
I want to bust another myth today. It is the myth that we need to make sure our kids do everything and have everything: sports, vacations, McDonald’s, the latest and greatest toys, etc. Why is it that we cannot be convinced that our presence is enough as parents? Parents, I want you to know that it is enough for your children to have your presence. You are gift enough. You are enough!
If you are a working parent, I want you to know that your kids don’t have to be in this and in that to make them well rounded. Your presence is enough. You can do that at home. You don’t need to run them around everywhere. You are a valuable enough person for your children to spend time with you. Maybe you can get together to ask how they feel about their lives. Maybe you can listen to what they think about the state of the world, or what the state of your relationship with them is. You don’t have to fix it. You don’t have to make all things better. You do have to be there in the love which the Father in Heaven has given you to give them. That is being Super Mom or Super Dad. You don’t need to do more.
You don’t have to push, push, push or protect, protect, protect. You can trust that your presence is what is important. Just like Jesus’ presence, and now the presence of the Holy Spirit, is enough for us. Just like Jesus who prayed for his disciples, you can pray for the little disciples in your home, or in your Church.
There is a great gift in the simplicity of Christianity which prays for the giving of eternal gifts. It is a simplicity that crowds out the things that crowd us out of our children’s lives. (Let me repeat that.) It is a simplicity that crowds out the things that crowd us out of our children’s lives. What I am saying is this: Moms and Dads, you have permission to stop the rat race in your child’s life and just give yourself in simplicity. This is what Jesus did. He said, “Everything which is mine is yours and everything which is yours is mine, and I have been glorified in them.” If you are a true disciple of Jesus Christ, then by giving yourself, you are giving your children all that is Jesus’. All that is Jesus’ is what the Father has given him. All that the Father has are the eternal gifts of self-giving, prayer, fellowship over a meal, forgiveness, mercy, compassion, worship and dedication. You have all of these things. They were given to you by the Father in Heaven through Jesus the Son. They now dwell in you as gifts given by the Holy Spirit. Give them to your children.
So, on the Lord’s Day, this 7th Sunday of Easter or Ascension Sunday, I proclaim to you that quality time and super moms/super dads are myths. They are no substitute for slowing down all of our lives and just being the holy presence that Jesus has made us to be. You have Christ’s permission to get out of the rat race and to be a present in your presence with your children. Amen? Amen.
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