He will turn the hearts of fathers to their children, and the hearts of children to their fathers. (Malachi 4:6)
I eavesdropped at Starbucks today. So did my wife.
The creamer counter sat facing a father and daughter couple. I was quietly squeezing a honey packet and shaking sugar into my venti cup of bold Italian. The girl was probably in ninth grade. I wasn’t really listening to the conversation as much as reading body language.
My interest is piqued when I see a kid one of my student’s ages in social situations. I get students at school, where emotional walls and facades cloud the self-portrait they’re painting. They’re on guard as drama and judgment fly around them like violent bees aiming for the heart.
So I listened to this little curly-haired blonde girl speak glowingly to her father (presumably) about her best friend.
“I want to show you her picture.”
And she stuck out her Iphone screen across the table so one of the most important people in her world could see another one of the most important people in her world.
It could have been a picture of Hitler or Pol Pot. He wouldn’t have known. Or cared.
He was disgustedly bored with this soul he sat across from. He never once made eye contact with her. And there wasn’t much else to look at during the moment. There wasn’t a parade going on outside or a big screen TV with a UFC match inside. It was just her and him at Starbucks…and the awkward couple a few feet away eavesdropping.
The man looked like he was watching paint dry. Or grass grow. Or baseball. Not even an obligatory nicety like “Yeah” or “OK” came from his lips.
I don’t know the man, so I want to be careful. He could be having a bad day or year. He could have just been given some tragic news, divorce papers, or have some health condition that keeps him from providing basic social interaction. This may be just one moment of weakness I’m generalizing over his whole life.
And I can empathize with this father. I’m not a poster dad for providing my kids pure and focused affirmation. I’m a slave to my Iphone and social media much more than I should be, and after the sixth “Do it again” my Hulk Smash routine begins to wear thin.
So I pray Malachi 4:6 over me and my boys.
And I pray it over this man and daughter.
That she finds respect and unconditional love and affirmation in the tender gaze of her father. That she finds a strong embrace from him that makes her feel confident and stable. Before she tries to find it in the arms of some cocky kid with a smile and gaming addiction who has no clue how to provide her any of these things.
That dad’s see there is no higher calling than sharing a coffee with their kids and drinking deeply of their life, their hopes, their dreams, even their friends. That we wouldn’t outsource our unique fatherly embrace to their peers, or their mother, or Justin Bieber.
Being there. Present. Turned towards them.
Turning fathers hearts is the Father’s heart.