Everybody else’s kids always seem just a bit more average than your own. This is not on purpose, I don’t think. It’s not even a critique, exactly. We’re glad to have all the other standard, appropriately-bright children around so our own kids can really glow against the background.
And we know this about each other. We take every report of a child’s accomplishment with a whole packet of salt. At least, I do. It’s wonderful that your kid does X, because that will make it even better when mine does Y. Or, my kid would also be doing X but he’s so busy with Z he’ll just get to that more basic stuff later. It’s not a case of high expectations so much as of knowing how wonderful our children are to us and our need to scientifically determine why that is.
The wonder, though, isn’t found in the child him- or herself. It’s found in the parents’ need to explain the inexplicable. Being nearly choked every day on huge packets of love has its drawbacks: we tend to have to spit out pieces of that love at anybody who comes close. But it’s love that’s been dried out and classified and turned into bitter, science-stuff. Nothing we’d want to eat. It’s the kind of thing that migrates to the back bumper and screams “My Kid is an Honor Student” at anybody unfortunate enough to follow that minivan. It can create science fair projects that would put NASA to shame, if only so that parents could find an expression for the overwhelming compulsion they feel to love.
Sometimes the love comes out straight. Somebody introduces himself and his son and says “I’m so proud of him; I love him so much.” We nod and smile and think about what that means.
When I was growing up I learned about the Baptism of Christ. After John the Baptist dunks him, Christ arises and the voice of God addresses the people, saying something to the effect of, “This is my Son, with whom I am well pleased.” As a kid, I though these words made sense: Christ was a good guy, and we really should know how great He was.
But now that I have a son and I think about this statement, I realize it has perhaps more to do with the Father than with the Son. When I was young I thought God was patting Jesus on the head here and saying, good job, kid, you did what you were supposed to do—you followed my instructions and here’s a verbal reward.
Yet that’s not it at all. God would have told His son, every day, from the beginning of days, how pleased He was with Him. This was not God placing a bumper sticker on the back of his chariot, but simply a father unable to contain the love he had for his only son. That day it just churned up within Him and bubbled out and he couldn’t help but brag in a most human way, that this son of his was the greatest of them all. He wasn’t wrong about that, but the beauty of this statement is that he put it into our tongue. God translated the feelings of an eternity into something audible, something resonating with our own limited imitations of agape love.
How much more does it mean then if we are now called the children of God, as the Apostle John put it? Since the beginning of time, God has been bragging about us and how pleased He is with us. The love of a parent transcends humanity.
So maybe we’re all a bunch of average, background kids. But what matters more is that we are His.