I like heavy starch.
There. I said it.
Haven’t always been that way about my shirts. But the older I get, the greater pleasure I find in simpler things. There is something nice about buttoning up a freshly dry-cleaned shirt, so crisply-starched that the elbows crunch at the first bending.
My sons, aren’t there yet.
They don’t have to be.
It’s not time.
They are perfectly content, wearing the shirt they found wadded in the corner of the room; the one with yesterday’s grass stains; the one still warm to the touch, because the dog slept on it.
Slept. On. The shirt.
And they’re perfectly fine with that.
Which is why I was moved a few weeks ago by an unexpected surprise.
After picking up my shirts from the cleaners, I took them to my closet, removed the plastic, and discovered that one of Nathan’s shirts had accidently made it to the cleaners with my own.
But as I stood there in my closet, plastic in one hand, twisty-tie in the other, I was moved by what I saw. Gripped by the image, the statement, the parable, on wire hangers. There it was: his shirt, clearly smaller than my own, but curiously a mirror image. Crisp with the crunch of his father’s starch.
I must have stood there a good three or four minutes, waves of emotion sweeping over, just considering the power of that image.
How many ways, intentional and unintentional, visible and unseen, am I influencing, shaping, forming my sons into the men they will become? Had I noticed the shirt prior to dropping it off at Village Cleaners, I probably would have pulled it out, organized better, caught it.
But I didn’t.
I am convinced that our greatest influence as parents is not in what we say, or in how we instruct with our words, our rules, or our expectations. Our greatest influence is not even in the places where we organize and maintain the illusion of parental control.
Our greatest influence, in the end, is found in who we ourselves are becoming.
That’s what they see.
That’s what shapes.
That’s what starches.
So who is that?
Who are you, becoming?
Are you becoming more loving? More humble? More Patient? More Kind?
Do they see you loving (and serving) your spouse more and more?
Do they see you growing in your faith? Discovering? Asking? Seeking? Knocking?
Do they sense a passion in you for something and Someone who is beyond you?
Do they see you sharing what you have?
Do they see you give your life away?
Do they recognize (and could they articulate) your top priorities in life?
And if so, what would they say those priorities are; based on what they see?
In short, do our children see us becoming more like Jesus?
Perhaps it’s worth all of our time to pause and consider who we are becoming.
Not just for our sake, but for the sake of those who are watching us become.
Because the starch sets in sooner than we think.
Johns Creek Baptist Church