Bigger than the Super Bowl


Today, Tom Brady will go for his sixth Super Bowl victory, which would solidify his place as the G.O.A.T. (Greatest of All Time) of football, and Justin Timberlake will make his much-anticipated return to the half-time-show stage. But as compelling as these stories are, this N.F.L. season should be remembered for a much bigger one.

Beginning with former NFL quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, nearly a year ago now, many players have engaged in silent protest of the national anthem by sitting, kneeling, locking arms, raising a fist, or even remaining in the locker room while the song is played. Naturally, the reasoning, validity, and appropriateness of the protests have been the source of much tension and debate nationwide.

While supporters believe these protests to be vital and overdue, many have labeled the demonstrations as “unpatriotic,” “disrespectful to the flag and veterans,” and some have even claimed the acts “unconstitutional” (which they’re not). Most notably, President Trump weighed in on Twitter:

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these N.F.L. owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, Get that son of a b**ch off the field right now — out! He’s fired. He’s fired!”

South Carolina Governor, Henry McMaster, also dubbed today “National Stand for the Flag Super Bowl Sunday,” decreeing that all South Carolinians stand with their families for the national anthem from wherever they are watching. The N.F.L. also allegedly considered running an ad during the game today that included veterans sympathetically asking Americans to stand for the anthem (apparently the production process was too slow). Conversely, there are also outspoken veterans who do not think much of being exploited, and find the protests to be quite the opposite: patriotic.


But regardless of our personal stances on these protests, let’s not forget or gloss over the original intent for them: to raise awareness about, and to no longer tolerate racial injustice and police brutality. Let’s not become more puffed up today when Tom Brady throws a touchdown pass or interception than we do when we see players kneeling during the national anthem. Let’s first consider the motivation and people involved before claiming to be offended from a distance.

Regardless of our differing stances, let’s all be quicker to dialogue with our friends and neighbors about racial injustice and inequality than whether or not the television network should show players kneeling and sitting. And finally, let us not hope controversy away out of convenience.

When the clock reads “00:00” today and someone is hoisting the Lombardi Trophy, let’s not wish the social issues away just because the football season has ended. Let’s remember that the 2017-18 N.F.L. season was not just the season that Tom Brady did or did not solidify his legacy, but that it was used as a platform to give a voice to the marginalized and to speak out against injustice. Let’s all care more about each other than we do about a game or winning an argument.


Charlottesville, and Why it’s all About Emotion’ve read countless articles and Facebook statuses this week pertaining to the events that took place in Charlottesville, like many of you have, and I’ve been struck by the role “emotion” has played in all of it. Although there are plenty of exceptions, I believe that the “emotion” of most of the responses posted this week can be lumped into one of three categories: “license” (freedom to react unfiltered; over-emotional); “devalued” (political; no emotion); or “well-meaning.”

Admittedly, there is no perfect reaction to all that is happening. None of us are going to get this thing completely right, and regardless of any stance we take, someone is always going to disagree with us. However, I think trying to understand what’s at stake emotionally for everyone involved is an important place to start.

The following is a summary of four of the most common/talked about responses that I’ve come across this week, and how a better understanding of the emotional aspect of things can give us all (regardless of race) context, thus enabling us to move forward together.

1.) “I’m shocked to hear about the events that happened in Charlottesville and I’m praying…” This first one is a little tricky because I don’t believe there’s anything truly wrong with it. in fact, It’s not too far from what I, myself, posted on Facebook earlier this week. Because of these reasons, I put this in that third category: “well-meaning.”

When my Instagram and Facebook feeds are flooded with variations of this status, or when I’m told this in person, my first emotional response is truly thankfulness. I’m thankful and encouraged to hear that people are praying for me and my minority friends. I’m encouraged to hear that people have my back, and are willing to take time out of their day to post responses to something that doesn’t necessarily even affect their everyday life.

However, my second emotional response is a different type of thankfulness. This time it’s thankfulness that an awareness has begun to percolate within a person’s heart who just hasn’t had to think about these issues before (at no fault of their own). From talking to several of my African-American friends this week, they described this most poignantly: “When someone says this to us, we’re thankful and appreciative, but we also want them to understand something: Although they might be ‘shocked’ that events like the ones in Charlottesville would occur at all, we’ve been conditioned to expect them to.”

2.) “There is no place for white supremacy in America.” This one is similar to the first, but I think it can fly a little more under the radar. I put it also in that third category, as I think it can be said with even better intentions than the first. Certainly if you’re reading this post, we all agree with this statement at face value: white supremacy is wrong, and it should not exist in our country. However, boldly declaring this online, wearing a t-shirt with this written on it, or hash-tagging it might be helpful but does not necessarily validate the pent-up emotion of marginalized people. The unfortunate truth is, although according to the constitution there should be no place for white supremacy in our country, there has been and still evidently is a place for it, thus the deep-rooted support of Nazi and alt/right ideology. Does this mean I believe that every white person in America is an undercover racist? ABSOLUTELY NOT. I simply say this to shine light on the dark, insidious existence (past and present) of white supremacy in our country.

3.) “White supremacists deserve to be condemned.” This is a delicate line to tow, but I put this response in that first category: “license.” While I believe in speaking up for the marginalized, I also believe that the injustice committed toward minorities this week does not warrant an equal response. Those of you who are pleading for non-violence, I’m with you. Those who believe that some of the counter protesters committed wrong acts too, I agree with you as well. However, our response cannot be to minimize or validate the original offense. End. Of. Story. It must be to condemn white supremacy as an ideology while absolutely refusing to accept any form of white nationalism. And this can all be done while hoping and praying for these white supremacists to have a heart change. It can all be done without both devaluing the marginalized or hating an individual.

4.) “There was evil on both sides of the events in Charlottesville.” This is where I realize it could get a little more contentious, but that it must be said. As it relates to emotions, I think we can address this response without even mentioning anything political. I put this response in that second emotional category: “devalued.”

And the name says it all. When people hold this view, and many do, it devalues the emotions of minorities. It minimizes their pain and the truth that there is a historical narrative of racism in America. It rationalizes hateful actions committed toward them, and it empathizes with their perpetrator at the expense of themselves (the victim).

I want to elaborate on that last point. What I’m not saying is that everyone that holds this view is racist; I’m not even saying that these people are intentionally being insensitive. Lastly, I’m again not saying that these white supremacists do not deserve grace. My objective is to simply describe why repeatedly hearing statements of neutrality from objective sources is hurtful to someone who has been unjustly harmed.

I think this is easier to relate to and understand than many of us realize. For example: imagine someone breaks into your home in the middle of the night, steals your possessions, and physically harms you, your parents, your kids, and/or your spouse. Now, imagine that this story breaks out on the news and that the overwhelming response, or even just half of the responses, are statements of neutrality. Imagine that people begin to flood your Facebook wall  and mailbox with questions like “Oh, had you locked your door that night?” or “Do you know if the person’s intent was to actually harm you?” Or, imagine what it’d be like to hear “Well, I’m so sorry that happened to you, but I’m sure that person has had a rough upbringing to have done something like that.”

Hopefully it’s fairly obvious as to why asking these questions right off the bat would be insensitive to someone who had just experienced something so traumatic, especially if it wasn’t the first time (thus, minimizing rather than validating the victim’s feelings). It doesn’t mean that fictional home-invader-person doesn’t deserve forgiveness or didn’t have a “rough upbringing.” It doesn’t mean that those young alt/right movement members are beyond help, nor that we shouldn’t earnestly desire for their redemption. It means that the time to make public declarations about your sympathy for white supremacists is not immediately after the news breaks about racist hate crimes occurring right down the road. It simply means that something must be done about both these incidents and the historical patterns of objective racial injustice, PERIOD.

Final thoughts: Please believe me when I say that I’m not writing this hoping or expecting to change the world, or because I think my opinion is important. I’m writing because I think we all have a responsibility to use our voice where and when it could help others. And that is my hope. Yes, I write for personal reasons, but more importantly, I’m writing because in my heart, I cannot imagine not contributing to this discussion. As I posted on social media earlier this week, regardless of your race, if you have a desire to see racial reconciliation come to fruition, resist the urge to remain silent.

SBC2017: The Heart of the Issue and My Takeaways

As a Christian, churchgoer, and Asian American, I wanted to take some time to respond to what took place at the annual Southern Baptist Convention (SBC2017) in Phoenix, AZ earlier this week. I carefully contemplated writing this post, deliberating whether or not it was wise to do so, and I decided that now is definitely not the time to remain silent. To be honest, I’m insecure about putting my opinion out there, but to me, the thought of contributing to a passive view on the discussion of racial reconciliation far outweighs my insecurities. Writer Jasmine Holmes said it best in a tweet yesterday: “Sometimes we are more worried about precision of language than the outcry of a hurting heart. Often, the demand for precision masks apathy.”

If you haven’t read the link above, you might be a bit lost as you continue to read, so give it a quick read. Here are some of my takeaways:

1.) The initial decision by the SBC to not consider the original resolution was unquestionably hurtful to all minorities, especially African Americans.

The decision was unquestionably hurtful to all minorities, especially those involved with an SBC church, for what I believe are obvious reasons. The unwillingness of an organization’s leaders to release a statement condemning an overtly racist hate group that hates a large portion of its membership because of some less-than-perfect penmanship in the proposal document is offensive. I can only imagine what it would be like for an openly vocal sexual assault victim to be told by his or her boss that the company is going to start hiring ex-sexual assault criminals as part of a rehabilitation program. The idea isn’t evil in and of itself, but it’s immensely ignorant and insensitive to that employee. Plain and Simple.

2.) The initial decision does not mean that the SBC leaders are fanatical racists.

On the flip side, I do not believe that the leaders of the SBC are overt racists themselves. They made a mistake that should be taken extremely seriously, but I believe they know that. I do not personally believe that any SBC member would openly and willingly support something like the alt-right movement, but I do believe that a greater understanding of structural racism versus personal racism is needed. For example, when middle-upper class people (myself included) hold fast to the belief that we deserve everything we’ve “worked hard” for while lower class people simply lack the motivation to pursue greater opportunities, we lack an accurate understanding of structural racism. Although hard work is essential and lacking motivation can be a reality, the structural advantages that the middle-upper class (especially white people) get to enjoy cannot be ignored.

3.) The revised resolution is encouraging.

I believe the wording and the stance of the revised resolution is very encouraging, and I’m grateful for those who took the time to revise it.

The Resolution

4.) We have a long, long way to travel down the path toward racial justice and reconciliation.

I think we have a long way to go down this path and that this is just the most recent example of that reality. I’m not one to say that “we’ve made no progress,” or “we’re worse off than we were sixty years ago.” However, I believe it’s when the non-marginalized begin to believe that we’ve “arrived” and that having discussions about race is unnecessary that we all find ourselves focusing on the wrong issues.

5.) The discussion about racial reconciliation, especially in the church MUST be taken more seriously.

It’s never going to be the easiest topic to bring up. Regardless of race or ethnicity, it takes initiative, deliberation, humility, and patience to have these conversations, but they must be had. When we consistently prioritize other issues above the race discussion, especially in the church, the cycle perpetuates itself. How much more willing are you to openly take a stance on abortion or the legalization of marijuana than you are to on racial issues?

6.) Moving forward, we each have a responsibility to educate ourselves and to listen to each other.

Last, the ball is in our court. We each have a responsibility to seek out new information as we trek down this path. The most helpful option in my opinion is seeking out in- person conversations with the people around us, but I’ll also leave you with a few suggestions that have been helpful in my pursuit:

  1. The book Divided by Faith. This book gives a detailed history of the historical problem of race in America, especially as it pertains to the church, and does a phenomenal job putting things into context for every reader.
  2. The book United. This is written by Trillia J. Newbell, and is a short, easy read if you’re looking for something a little less intense. Trillia does a beautiful job of furthering discussions about racial reconciliation and does so in a personal way.
  3. The TV show Blackish. I actually just decided to binge watch this show because I heard it was hilarious, and IT IS! But each episode is also incredibly informative and I have gained some very helpful perspective from watching this hysterical sitcom. Seriously, you can’t go wrong with this one.

New York City, Friendship, and Musicals


I read an article last week in the New Yorker about how an increasing amount of people living in New York City have been posting Craigslist ads seeking platonic friendship. The title immediately got my attention as I’ve often thought about how mystifying it is that people flood to places like NYC in an effort to avoid living in small isolated towns, yet walk around all day with headphones on and their eyes glued to their phones all while complaining about the surrounding amounts of traffic and people. My wife and I live in a small town but love NYC, so this naturally interested us.

It also reminded me of a sermon by Tim Keller that I listened to this year about “friendship.” Keller, who ironically live in NYC, says “you will not make it in life if you are not good at choosing, keeping, and forging terrific friendships.” He also points out that our culture, particularly movies, focuses solely on romantic and familial love and that there’s virtually nothing out there about friendship besides the hobbits’ relationships in Lord of the Rings. And isn’t this true? How many romantic comedies can most of us name off the top of our heads? Or, how many stories about someone overcoming adversity powered by a familial relationship can we recall? Dozens, right?

A lot of my time is spent immersed in a smaller, tight-knit Christian circle in which we spend a lot of our time discussing the importance of things like “healthy community.” However, I think that we actually often fail to understand the true importance of friendship. One of my favorite writers, C.S Lewis, says in The Four Loves, “The very condition of having Friends is that we should want something else besides friends.” In other words, the people who just “want friends” are the very ones that struggle to make them.

Friendship is deliberate and takes much more effort than we often realize. Your family is your family whether you like it or not, and there are some obvious personal motives for seeking out romance. But as important as friendship is, it’s the fact that it’s the least necessary that makes it so sacredly unique.

The problem with just wanting friends is that wanting a friend is not wanting a friend at all. It’s wanting a companion or a buddy to be there to keep you company or to listen to you vent. True friendship should be rooted in the fact that you and another person see and believe in the same truths, as Lewis puts it. I think this is a good way to differentiate between friends and close friends. Who in your life shares your passions? Who believes in pursuing the things in life that you innately desire?

Ironically, my wife and I were just in NYC to celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary, and although we were there to see the greatness that is Hamilton, we also ended up seeing Dear Evan Hansen, this year’s most raved about musical. Aside from the truly astonishingly perfect performances in the show, one of the things that stuck out to me was that in some ways this show portrayed what Keller and Lewis are getting at. The show starts out with the main character, Evan, singing things like “On the outside, always looking in” and “Can anybody see, is anybody waving back at me?” yet has him evolve to singing “Even when the dark comes crashing through/When you need a friend to carry you/And when you’re broken on the ground/You will be found.”

It’s a beautiful story of the need for friendship in this world, and I certainly neglect not only to appreciate my friends, but to appropriately value what they mean to me. I find my self all too often focusing on logistical and practical things when it comes to life like finances, location, and accomplishments rather then focusing on my friendships. I too often ask myself things like “what could I achieve and where can I achieve it” rather than “how can I orient my life around choosing, keeping, and forging terrific friendships for the rest of my life?”

Lastly, I don’t want to diminish the reality that this friendship thing is difficult. A good friendship should be characterized by both pain and laughing, and at its core, humility. Friendship is about the other person, not you. Ralph Waldo Emerson says it best in his essay on friendship: “The only way to have a friend is to be one.”


Race, Ethnicity, and Golf Clubs?

As an Asian American, who was adopted and raised by a white family in a privileged culture, I’ve always naturally struggled with my identity. I’ve quite literally always been in the minority, racially, in all of my circles, and honestly, I have trouble imagining what it’d be like if it were otherwise.

Don’t get me wrong; I’ve had an incredible life, and I have little to complain about. But I wish I could say that I’ve always felt understood by others, including close friends and even family, or that I’ve always felt fully appreciated and viewed as equal when it comes to my race. Unfortunately, that’s not reality, at least not yet.

I’ve had more conversations about issues pertaining to race and ethnicity in the past year than I’ve had in probably my entire life, and aside from being exhausting, it’s been both encouraging and freeing. I don’t mean that each conversation has incited a breakthrough, but rather I think the barrage of conversations has been a breakthrough in itself.

If you’re like me, and in this case I hope you are, you’re longing for our culture to make some big strides toward racial reconciliation. But you also know that we have a long way to go (probably farther than we realize). This reality is, admittedly, daunting, but I think we can and still must start somewhere. In the last 6 months or so, I’ve also read and watched dozens of articles, books, shows, movies, and ads pertaining to race and ethnicity, but one simple thing has truly stuck with me throughout these endeavors: the need to explore my own ignorance by seeking out conversations with people unlike myself.

Like I said, this seems daunting, but it’s got to be the first step. Why? Because in seeking something as arduous as racial reconciliation, there’s an indispensable need to level the playing field from the beginning. What I’m not saying is that we need to go out and talk to everyone we know that’s different than us so that we can reach a point where we can say “I know how you feel.” I think you’ll find out, if you haven’t already, that that approach only perpetuates the issue. No. I’m saying that we need to seek to learn about issues that we’ve been conditioned to marginalize. Issues that we actually can’t relate to but are now choosing to care about.

This is going to look different for everyone, and it’s certainly difficult to know where to begin. How do we pursue something like this without offending people or risk being offended ourselves? My answer: I don’t know. But I think the following scenario is one that levels that playing field and allows us to think outside of ourselves a little bit.

In addition to being Asian American, I’ve also always been right-handed; and I can’t imagine not being right-handed. If you’re right-handed, you might be wondering where this is going. But if you’re left-handed, your ears are probably starting to perk up.

Right-handers, we’ve got it made, and if you’re like me, you really haven’t spent much time acknowledging this. When you go out looking for a new set of golf clubs, you don’t go out hoping to find a set made for a right-hander. To you, they’re just golf clubs. You don’t find and cherish that pair of right-handed scissors you found on the shelf. To you, they’re just scissors. You don’t breathe a sigh of relief when you realize you’re sitting next to another right-hander at the dinner table or in the classroom and neither of you will have to worry about bumping elbows. You’ve never had to search a store for a right-handed notebook or had to learn and watch things backwards and upside down from your teachers and coaches growing up. No. The Right-handed way has just always been THE way.

So, what way(s) in your life have you always just viewed as THE way in life? We’ve all got them and I can already think of a bunch for myself; however, I’m going to rely on those who are different than me to fill me in on the rest.

Hidden Figures

The following is part of an article I wrote for The Rising Blog last month:  The Rising is a Christian based blog that seeks to share the Gospel through all mediums by covering issues like faith and culture.  It’s a privilege get to write for them, so go check them out!

I’m fortunate to have a job that allows me to make my own schedule, which means that some weeks are more productive than others.  If I’m honest, some are far more productive. However, the most valuable part of my week this week had nothing to do with “work” or completing house projects.  No.  The most valuable two and a half hours of my week were spent seeing the movie “Hidden Figures.”

The film takes place in Hampton, VA and is based on the true stories of Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson, three female African-American mathematicians who worked for N.A.S.A. during the 60s, and their humble fight to be taken seriously.  If you haven’t seen “Hidden Figures” yet, I cannot recommend it highly enough.  It’s truly a must see, especially as of late.

For the rest of the article, click here!


Thanksgiving: Finding Rest When it Seems Impossible


Happy Turkey Day! Or as I like to say, “Happy sweet potato casserole day!

This is our first holiday season as parents, so we’re in the midst of navigating the ins and outs of balancing travel with family, friends, nap time, and still squeezing in some time to rest and recharge. 

It seems like a distant memory that our norm used to be spending Thanksgiving week eating, watching movies, sleeping, and eating again. It’s surreal to think that Thanksgiving used to be, well, all about us!  Now, pretty much everything is about someone else…

Yep, 95% of the holiday now consists of 20 people sitting around, eating, talking about, and being entertained by a 20 pound little human at all times.  And we love it.  We’re so thankful to have family and so many friends that love on our little guy so much.  However, that doesn’t mean rest and recharging are out of the question.  In fact, I think it’s still a necessity!

So here’s what’s unexpectedly worked for me this week, thus far: taking 10-30 min to sit in silence.

I know this is quite literally impossible for those of you with your entire family tree in town, but I think for most, it’s more feasible than you think.  Kaitlyn has taken Ollie out with her a few times to meet a couple of friends since we’ve been on the road, which means I’ve had some unexpected time to myself.  Now I don’t typically utilize unexpected alone time well.  I usually spend the majority of it trying to decide what to do and then end up doing nothing.  But I’ve had to learn to take better advantage of this when I can. So this week, I’ve spent 10-30 min, a few times now, sitting in silence.  And the result: rejuvenation.

I know everyone relaxes differently, whether it’s going on a jog, watching a movie or game, talking with a friend, or even napping, but I think that silence is extremely underrated.  I’m going to sound like an old man when I say this, but especially within a culture that consists of constant stimulation, entertainment, and gratification, I think we overlook the value of turning everything off in order to just think, distraction free.

This can be done in a number of ways. Whether inside or outside; sitting and reading; just sitting; or sitting alone, listing to your baby’s sound machine (still counts as silence) for 30, 20, or even just 10 minutes.  The main thing is that you’re unplugged, no agenda.

I’m not saying that this will feel as rejuvenating as the days of spending 168 straight hours on the couch when you were home from college.  But I am saying that it will feel better than going 168 straight hours without taking a short 10 minutes to yourself.  There’s still time to be thankful and restful in the midst of chaos.

And for those of you, like me, with still just one little one crawling around versus four (or with none at all), I recommend taking your 10-30 minutes daily!


9 Months In, 9 Months Out


Ollie is 9 months old today, and I know this is cliche, but I cannot believe where the time has gone!  I’ve felt this way as each month has past, but to think that we’ve had Ollie now for as long as Kaitlyn was pregnant feels like a way bigger deal.

Time flies guys, and if you’re like me, you have a hard time living in the moment.  I’m perpetually second guessing myself.  Wondering.  Worrying.  Failing to live presently.

Well, speaking as the driver of this train of thinking, let me tell you: it never goes anywhere.  Worrying about how much money is in my bank account never results in money miraculously appearing in it.  Wondering if I should have chosen a different major in college doesn’t help me move forward; it holds me back.

Don’t get me wrong, learning from the past in order to make wiser decisions is definitely smart.  But “worry” and “second-guessing” doesn’t have to be part of it!

The last two weeks for me have been some of the hardest I’ve had in a while, and it’s so easy to let my circumstances steal my joy.  It’s so easy to go back and forth between checking out and coasting and dwelling on things for far too long.  Is anyone else there?

Well, unfortunately, I don’t have the remedy for this.  But the way I see it is that I have an opportunity.  I have an opportunity to choose joy over worry.  In fact, today, I think I have a responsibility to do this!

I’m going to celebrate the little things, aka, Ollie’s 9 month birthday.  I don’t mean we’re throwing a party or anything.  I just mean, instead of begrudgingly helping pose a squirming, rolling Ollie for Kaitlyn as she eagerly snaps her monthly update pictures, I’m going to appreciate that I get I get to do this at all.  Instead of saying to Kaitlyn “it’s pointless” or “let’s just give up” when Ollie is barrel rolling across the living room while she’s trying to snap a few pics, I’m going to enjoy my little guy’s personality.  I’m going to enjoy his smile and childlike innocence and joy.  I’m going to choose to love these moments as they’re happening rather than ending up looking back and wondering, “where did all the time go?”

How can you choose joy over worry?


Why We Shouldn’t Aim to Raise “Good” Kids

I love stories, and one of my favorites is the Parable of the Prodigal Son found in Luke Chapter 15 of the Bible.  I’ve read this story dozens of times, but recently, I reread it for the first time since becoming a father myself.  If you’re not familiar with it, give it a quick read:

11 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. 14 And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.

17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ 20 And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’[b] 22 But the father said to his servants,[c] ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. 23 And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

Typically, this story is known for the first two thirds: a man has two sons; the younger, immature son takes his inheritance, squanders it, comes crawling back to dad, and is forgiven.  But if we keep reading, I think the last third of the story is as important as the first two:

25 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ 28 But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ 31 And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. 32 It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”

I lied.  I actually think the last third is more important, at least from a father’s perspective.  Here’s why: the father’s interaction with his older son seems to contradict our innate desire as parents to raise morally “good” kids.

I can’t speak much to this yet in that I only  have an 8 month old at home right now that I essentially just have to keep alive, but all this has got me thinking: “Do I desire to raise ‘good’ kids?” More specifically, “If I had to choose, would I rather my kids turn out more like the older son than the younger son?

If I’m honest, until recently I’d have answered that question with an emphatic “YES.”  Of course I’d rather my son spend his whole life safely by my side.  Contributing to the household.  Earning a living.  Respecting me.  Of course I never want him to wish I was dead (which is what the younger son meant when he asked for his inheritance early) or to run off with all my possessions only to lose them all and to end up eating out of a pig trough.  Does any parent truly want that for their kids?

Yet, I think this story demonstrates the danger of striving to raise “good” kids.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not about to say, “parents should abandon all rules and hope for the best.”  I think that would have its own set of consequences.  I just wonder what it’d be like if more parents committed to raising their kids to be individuals, not the “not bad” kids.

Now, this story doesn’t portray either the younger, rebellious son nor the older, obedient son in a good light; and I think that’s the point.  The father doesn’t scold the younger son when he returns home because it’s not necessary.  The younger son has already learned his lesson.  But when the father reprimands the older son and tells him “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours,” we learn that even a life of following all the rules hasn’t gotten the older son any closer to his father than his little brother is.  He’s missed the point of his father’s parenting just as much.

I absolutely want my son to grow up delighting in , obeying, and respecting me, but not because he thinks I’ll love him more if he does.  It’s so easy to look to the future and to think, “If I can raise him to stay out of trouble for 18 years, I’ll have done a good job.”  And although, keeping him out of jail is something I’d also very much like to do, I want, more than anything, for him to grow up knowing that I love him for who he is.  I want him to remember me asking him questions, giving him grace, and getting to know his interests and dislikes.  I want him to remember that his father loved him through every bedtime story, tee-ball game, time-out, and every less-than-stellar report card.  I want my relationship with my son to be characterized by unconditional love.