Tuesdevo: Who Is Impressing Whom?

June 24 sticking out tongue

The first challenge: Is the title of this post grammatically correct? Let’s move on …

Deuteronomy 6:7 – “Impress them on your children …

At a family wedding recently I was introduced to a great-niece I had not met before. She is five years old, and as she stood next to her mother who was introducing us, I extended my hand. The child looked at me and stuck out her tongue. Her mother was horrified and most apologetic. Among the many relatives this little girl was meeting for the first time that day, I don’t expect I made much of an impression. But I’m not going to forget this, our first encounter.

Isn’t it supposed to be the other way around? The author of Deuteronomy anticipates the day when children grow weary of formalities – religious or social. You know what I’m talking about – those institutional and family ‘liturgies’ that we impose upon ourselves to create some semblance of order and a veneer of propriety. In those moments it is the adult who is supposed to “recite the rules” and impress upon the young just what life is really all about.

This week I am in charge of “Games” at our Vacation Bible School. I’m out there running around with 4, 5, 6, 7 year olds, trying to “impress” upon them how the games we are playing are related to the spiritual theme of the day. Yeah. Right. Anyone who has spent any amount of time with children that age knows just how tortuously long 25 minutes can be. Who is impressing whom?

Impress upon them …” That has a kind of ‘branding’ tone to it, doesn’t it? We are trying to leave our mark on the next generation, because obviously – we adults certainly have our act together. Yeah. Right.

The amazing thing is that we do make a mark on children and youth around us. We do leave an impression, though it may not always be the intended one. Even more astonishing is the fact that sometimes we actually do get our point across. It may not be until 10, 15 or 20 years later that we get word – from that five year old who stuck their tongue out at you, or the Sunday School child who never seemed to be paying attention, or the student who always came off as if they knew everything – they come back to us and say to us: “I remember the time you said to me …

So … we hold in creative tension a dual responsibility. It is a paradox, isn’t it – that the Deuteronomist lays upon us the burden of making an impression on the young people around us. Be aware that you are doing that today. At the same time, Jesus tells us the children must make an impression on us. The child will lead us to peace writes Isaiah; and Jesus tells us the little ones will point us in the direction of the kingdom of heaven.

Who is impressing whom today?

A blessed Tuesday to you.

Mark Demers

Want to talk about sex, politics, spirituality? So do I. I grew up in a religious home in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Our country was reeling from assassinations and the devastation of the Viet Nam War. Looking for something beautiful, I got a degree in music, married the love of my life and had children. Looking for God, I then went to seminary. Looking for something that might transform the world, I became a local church pastor. Now, I’m always looking for people who want to talk about important things. I cherish conversations with emerging leaders, people who are antsy to try an idea they believe would change the world for the better. I’d would love to hear from you.

  • Mark Jacunski

    This is so true — children see and hear EVERYTHING, even when we think they’re not paying attention.

    TRUE STORY: Years ago my 5 year old nephew was flipping through the TV channels, stopped on a football game, and started swearing at the TV. My horrified sister-in-law asked what was going on, and my nephew replied, “That’s what Daddy always says when he watches football.” Needless to say, my brother, who’s a great father, got a talkin’ to.

    The good news is that the good stuff sticks, too.