I’ll never forget the first time I looked into my children’s eyes. Those watery portals of blue new-opened, windows to souls I had never met and always known, the wonder of it burning deep. Fresh from heaven, those newborn eyes seemed wiser than my own, and for a long time, each time, I couldn’t look away.
And yet, somehow the wonder eventually burned away. I find myself distracted by to-do lists, deadlines, laundry piles and the coffee pot beeping. I check chore charts and plan homeschool days, find the mouthguard and drive to football practice, make one more casserole for the freezer and a new batch of muffins for the table. I check my phone. And I check my phone. And I check my phone.
And all around me, wonder is running, growing, playing, learning. I gather it close around the table a few times a day, and we pile on the couch to read aloud together most every night. I pour in stories and Bible verses and encouragement, and I’ve watched four pair of newborn eyes walk out our door now, ready to take in and take on the greater world swirling around before it passes them by.
Ten years ago, I had the privilege of teaching our school’s chapel service. As the high-school aged kids sat before me, I wanted to get inside their heads, to know what made them tick–and what ticked them off. I asked what parents could do to improve relationships with their kids, and even then–ten years ago, before swipe-to-refresh, before Instagram, before the “like” button!– the most-voiced comment? “Get off the computer!”
Easier said than done, especially now that our computers are literally in-hand practically all day long.
When was the last time we really looked our children in the eyes?
Does the answer surprise? We’re all being trained to look elsewhere, aren’t we? Companies are spending thousands, millions of dollars trying to get our attention, and they’re using scientific study to do it. When science is applied to measure the effect of our distracted attention on our children, the results are disturbing; According to psychologist Catherine Steiner-Adair (as quoted in For The Children’s Sake, Put Down That Smartphone) “…when parents focus on their digital world first — ahead of their children — there can be deep emotional consequences for the child … ‘We are behaving in ways that certainly tell children they don’t matter, they’re not interesting to us, they’re not as compelling as anybody, anything, any ping that may interrupt our time with them.'”
“Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness.” Luke 11:34
So why do we need to look our children in the eyes?
Because they are the windows into our children’s souls, and our children’s souls are the gardens we’ve been put in charge over. Our task is to clear the weeds through training, cultivate the ground with discipling, fertilize the soil with encouragement, plant seeds by sharing the truth of the gospel, water the plot with our attention and care, and trust God for the growth.
But how will we know where the weeds are, where the soil is anemic, or what seeds have yet to be planted if we don’t take the time to look closely and investigate the ground we’ve been given?
Today, let’s take time to look them in the eyes. For as long as it takes. And if there are things we have to lay down in order to do that? So be it.
There is wonder and treasure and grace to be found in those deep pools.