My parents used to say "paycheck" when one of us five kids reached a milestone. Now that my husband and I have three kids of our own, I totally get it. Those first smiles and "momma-dadda" were like money in the bank. And as they grew, catching them being nice to others always paid off. But I’m a sucker for a sense of humor—I loved watching that develop.
Speaking of humor, I remember a paycheck rolled in the day I went to my son’s sixth grade open house. Was it his well-displayed science project that did it? Or his aluminum-foiled sculpture of King Tut? Not really. I got "paid" when Mr. Martin said, "Your son is really funny. At dinner every night my family asks about the hilarious things he said that day."
However, a quick wit isn't all it takes for me to say cha-ching! I gush over my kids while they sleep. Or when they walk across the room—I could watch them all day. I’m even proud when they stand there, doing nothing, the more awkward and tween-ish looking the better.
But as I look back at the many paychecks I’ve received from watching my kids reach milestones, spread laughter, and dream sweetly, something tells me the best parental pay-off is found elsewhere.
So where does this highly-coveted paycheck come from? Could it be linked to my kids’ obedience? After all, few things can compare! Obedience is like a direct deposit in the bank of “Awesome Parenting,” although the process of actually getting my kids to obey is oftentimes exhausting. But no one ever said it was easy, for it takes a lot of patience and sticking-to-my-guns.
And if raising obedient children isn’t hard enough, why does that one parent always offer unsolicited advice? A fellow mom once delivered a lecture on how it shouldn't have to take "to the count of three" for my kids to stop touching the mannequins in Kohl's. "When properly trained," she said, "they should listen and obey on the count of one."
As I contemplated giving her a little advice of my own, about how she could stand to be a warmer, more approachable mother, I decided to hold my tongue. I just smiled and nodded in agreement. After all, for any parent who can get his or her child to obey "on the count of one,” it’s payday!
So then, should raising obedient children be a parent’s highest goal? What pay-off could possibly top that? What’s even better?
My husband and I came to the conclusion that the best pay-off has little to do with obedience and everything to do with relationship. For example, when our teenage daughter walks through that door after a long day at school, sharing with us the ins-and-outs of her day—sometimes giddy, sometimes in tears—we become richer, for our daughter views home as a safe place to de-frazzle and be accepted. So before she does one thing obedient around the house—empties the dishwasher, walks the dog, or treats her sister with kindness—we've already gotten “the better” paycheck by knowing our daughter finds peace in the presence of her mom and dad.
Could the relationship we desire to have with our children reflect the relationship our heavenly Father longs to have with us? Absolutely. After Jesus got baptized, before diving into ministry and before ever saying, “Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:29), God the Father connected with Him and said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17).
Author Alicia Britt Chole puts it this way: "Before Jesus preached one sermon or enlightened one mind, before Jesus healed one body or saved one soul, God sounded his affirmation from above over Jesus's life."
All throughout the Bible we see examples of God prioritizing relationship over obedience, and in the case of the prodigal son, even over blatant rebellion. After blowing through his dad’s inheritance on bad boy living, “he got up and went to his father; but while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him” (Luke 15:20). During the prodigal son’s waywardness, not once did his father forget about him. Nor did he give him the silent treatment or string together a bunch of I-told-you-sos when he finally came home. His father remained his daddy before, during, and after his season of self-indulgent living.
So before we graduate from college or launch a ministry, God wants to relate to us. Before we strike it rich or make it famous, God wants to connect with us. And even before we have a chance to explain where we’ve been, what we’ve been doing, and who we’ve been doing it with, God wants to welcome and restore us. Through Jesus, we can rest in knowing we are his "paycheck"—just as we are.
Molly Parker cherishes her role as contributor and editor for Anchored Press Devotional Planners and for Sacred Holidays Bible studies. When Molly's not French-braiding hair or scolding her basset hound, she's eating cake, baking a cake, or thinking about cake, which is surprising considering she's worked in the fitness industry 25 years. Molly lives in Southern California with her husband and three children.
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