You have a museum in your mind. It's a museum of memories.
Anniversaries. Birthdays. Graduations. Holidays. Longstanding traditions. Life's milestones. Even recoveries from serious illnesses. Each memory hangs in its place, firmly fixed in your mind . . . and in the minds of your children.
Think of yourself as the curator of your museum. You're the one who watches over its treasures and realizes its value. Even before your children grow up, you realize you're endowing yourself and them with museums of life's treasured memories.
That's part of what draws me to the book of Psalms. These songs paint pictures of life as it really is . . . and when it comes to the family, Psalm 127 does this better than most. Two of its verses speak directly to us as curators:
It is useless for you to work so hard
from early morning until late at night,
anxiously working for food to eat;
for God gives rest to his loved ones. (Psalm 127:2 NLT)
Our occupations are important and demand much of our time. Rightly so. However, very few treasures from the office hang in our museums of memories. Solomon wisely reminds us in this psalm—just as he does in the book of Ecclesiastes—that it is "useless" to work from dawn till after dark as if it all depends on us. It doesn't. That's life on the ragged edge. That's the world's system. Overworking ourselves at the expense of our families is useless because, ultimately, it is God who provides for us.
But there's another reason that ragged lifestyle is useless. We have a museum to look after! It needs to be filled with the right treasures. Our priority as curators requires that we give attention to the treasured memories we are making with our families. Solomon makes this clear:
Children are a gift from the LORD;
they are a reward from him. (127:3)
Some of the most important memories we're making with our children and grandchildren stem directly from our attitudes and actions toward them. Let me share three ways that we can help provide our children and grandchildren with a collection of treasured memories that will hang forever in their museums.
First, let your children and grandchildren know you value them . . . and you enjoy their presence. Every child is a gift and a reward from God. We build memories that our children will treasure when we remind them again and again that they are God's gifts to our family. Let them often hear words like, "You are such a delight!" Or "It's great to see how you're growing up and becoming your own person." (I just said that to one of our grandsons at lunch today.)
In addition to communicating their worth with our words, we also affirm their value with our time. Time is a major donor to the museum of memories. Are you a grandparent? Now's your chance! If your children didn't get much of your time when they were growing up, make sure your grandchildren get it. Nothing communicates the value of a person like spending time with him or her.
Second, let them see your authentic walk of faith . . . including genuine apologies. Our families long to remember that what we said through our mouths we lived out through our lives. Children—especially teenagers—cannot tolerate hypocrisy. (We adults don't care for it much either.) I'm not talking about modeling perfection. We are going to blow it. But part of an authentic walk of faith includes genuine apologies when we mess up . . . rather than phony backpedaling to cover our tracks. An authentic Christianity that includes sincere apologies creates precious memories that will hang forever in the museums of their hearts—never to be forgotten. Ever.
Third, delight to listen to them . . . and to laugh with them! Okay, this one's tough for some folks—I get it. You and I are the older and wiser ones. We could save our kids so much heartache if they would only listen to us! But our words can't come first in priority. Here's why: our words will fall flat when we fail to treat their words as valuable. We're just wasting our time. They will learn that we care about them because we listen to them—not because we preach at them. (Read that again.) Find delight in listening to them. Yes, just listening. When we do so, we get the inestimable privilege of hearing what they say . . . of reading between the lines. Before long, we will build a relationship where they feel safe to share their feelings . . . their fears . . . their secrets . . . and their treasures. We're the curators, remember?
Oh, and don't forget to laugh with them! I have an old saying that our kids have heard from me for years, "You can't beat fun." I can assure you, when fun leaves our families, our kids want out. I urge you to laugh often—and loudly! (Loud is the only way I know to laugh!)
We already have many memories hanging in our museums . . . and we have many more to come. If it's true that the most recent memories are often the best remembered, then there's no better time than now to turn a corner and start hanging in our children's and grandchildren's museums the precious memories our families long to cherish.
Never forget . . . we are curators of God's greatest treasures.