How Long Is Your Shadow?

With all the books on parenting out there now, I sometimes wonder how anyone managed to grow up OK before all these books. I don’t think there is anything necessarily wrong with getting as much insider advice on parenting as possible. Raising kids can be tough. Raising good kids can be even tougher. I just don’t think that parenting is as complicated as we’ve made it out to be. 

One of the things my kids do to annoy each other and me is to play the copycat game. You know, the one where one kid says something and the other kid repeats it right back? A couple weeks ago we were all playing inside thanks to an ice storm; the first few hours went fine, but after that things began to get a little hairy. My wife and I knew we needed to get out of the house when I had this exchange with our eight year old.

From the other room our eight year old yelled, “Mom, Dad, make him stop copying me.”

Now, we had been listening to them for the last ten minutes or so and had overheard plenty of arguing but we hadn’t heard any copying going on.

So I shouted back, “We’ve been listening, and your brother hasn’t been copying you.” 

We were about to discover our eight year old has the super power of reading people’s minds. From the other room she shouted, “He’s copying me in his head!”

Imitation comes naturally to us. We sometimes use it to annoy each other, but it’s also one of the primary ways we learn. It’s how children learn to walk and talk, and even as adults there are people whom we look up to and try to emulate. I believe imitation is the greatest tool that we have as Christian parents to pass on the faith that has been passed on to us.

Psalm 145:4 says, “One generation shall commend Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts.”

The video below from The Skit Guys beautifully demonstrates this “one generation commending God’s works to another” in action. Check it out…

“How long is your shadow?” That’s the question at the end of the video and it struck a chord with me. Parenting, passing on the faith we have received in Jesus Christ, isn’t rocket science. You don’t have to read the latest book or attend the latest parenting class to do it well.

Passing on the faith happens daily as we live out our lives together. It happens when you pray at meals. It happens when you pray before bed. It happens when you read and re-tell the stories of the Bible together. It happens when you answer the myriad of questions about God and life that come up at completely unexpected times.

Passing on the faith also happens when you worship together. Each Sunday we gather together and we pray the Lord’s prayer, we listen to readings from the Bible, and we recite the historic creeds (Apostle’s, Nicene, or Athanasian). We celebrate the Lord’s Supper and witness baptisms of both the young and the old. We do the same things that believers have been doing for two thousand years now.

I never met my great-great-grandparents, but they cast a long shadow. They passed their faith on to their children, who passed that faith on to their children, who passed that faith on to their children, who passed that faith on to me. And now as a dad I’ve got the joy of joining in that long line.

And the shadows we cast don’t just fall on our kids. They fall on those around us. Everyone we meet. Even if they only pass through our lives briefly. When people see you, do they see Jesus? As Paul says in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”

How long is your shadow?

***About the picture of the camels***
George Steinmetz took this photo in 2005.It is considered one of the best pictures of the year (2005). Look closely — the camels are the little white lines in the picture. The black you see is just the shadows! To learn more about George’s work check out his bio with National Geographic.





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