In the world of parenting, even shopping carts matter.

Maybe it’s because it took me 30 minutes to get on the highway in route to my house after work last night.  (Have I told you that I loathe traffic?)

Maybe it’s because my feet ached to the bone, having been stuffed for 12 hours in the beautiful new stiletto heals I bought at an after Christmas sale.  Yes. I. Did.

Maybe it’s because it was 7:00, I was extremely hungry, and yet I found myself at the grocery store picking up items for the meal I would have to cook before I could eat.

Maybe it’s because it had been a really long day at work.

Or maybe it’s because it was wicked cold outside, and I was freezing.

I don’t know exactly why.  But on the eve of the launch of Kory’s new sermon series, Parent World, it really struck a nerve when I saw this in a parking stall in the grocery store parking lot last night:

shopping cartThe rogue shopping cart that “lost its way” to the return bin.

We’ve all seen it.

Not because it accidentally rolled down a hill mind you. (Those things do happen.)

But because someone chose to put it there instead of walking the extra bit of distance to stow it away in its proper place.  And whoever it was that made this decision obviously had a child in tow pushing a kiddie cart who he or she directed to do the same thing. (That’s the part that really gets me.  Our children are at our mercy, aren’t they?)

Now these carts sit in the grocery store parking lot, taking up a space someone else could be using and waiting for someone else to endure the freezing cold temperatures to put them away.  And the poor child that participated in this thinks that’s OK because that child was with a trusted adult.  And if it’s OK for the trusted adult, than it’s certainly OK for the child following his or her lead.

It made me sad.  And I’ll confess.  It made me really mad.  Because I think we can do better for the children in our lives.

It may seem like a small thing.  A shopping cart in a parking stall.

It’s certainly not an unforgivable act.

There could be extenuating circumstances.

And yes.  There are worse things.

But it’s symbolic of a mistake we can make as parents every day.  (Myself included.)

We don’t always lead well by our example to demonstrate a core value in Christian parenting:

That others are precious.

In Parenting From The Tree Of Life, a Bible study that Kory and I will be facilitating with 18 other couples over the next six weeks, it states:

Parents, by intent or neglect, for better or worse, are still the greatest influence when it comes to shaping a child’s life.  Unless parents voluntarily give it up, or choose to surrender portions of their influence, nothing is more persuasive and long-lasting as the impressions gained or lost within the context of the home.  That is because children tend to reflect the priorities and values of their home life.  What is important to Mom and Dad will become important to their children and will influence what each child becomes in the future.

(Parenting From The Tree Of Life, pg. 17.)

There’s no doubt that, as parents, we will have big opportunities to instill our priorities and values into the hearts and minds of our kids.  How we respond to significant areas of disobedience, whether we will allow our kids to suffer the natural and logical consequences of their own mistakes, and how we navigate the issues that plague the teenage years will be key.  But what happens amidst the daily grind in the early years matters too.

A lot.

In fact, based on families we’ve observed over the years, we think it lays the foundation for a better success rate as children grow and as the issues become more complex.

And while there are no guarantees, if we work diligently through our own example to train the hearts of our children to see and value others as God sees and values them, it should take us a long way.  This can happen in big ways.  But it happens in little ways much more often.

Like taking the few extra minutes to put our shopping carts in their proper place.

And while we’re doing that, we have an opportunity to engage our kids.  We can ask them what we’re doing.  We can ask them why we’re doing it.  And if they don’t know?  We can tell them:

We’re putting our shopping cart away because others are precious to God.  And if they’re precious to God, then they’re precious to us.  We don’t want to create work that someone else will have to do to clean up our mess.

This is really simple stuff.  These kinds of opportunities are presented to us every day.  And I believe that God intended for the real “magic” of parenting to happen in these kinds of ordinary, every day moments.  Because in Deuteronomy 6, Moses said this to the Israelites:

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.  Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

Yes.  The “magic” in parenting is in the daily grind.  While we’re sitting.  Walking.  Resting.  Rising.  Grocery shopping.  Paying bills.  Cooking meals.  Going to school.  Going to work.  Participating in youth sports.  Attending church.  And all the other things that make our lives so ordinary and so busy.  All at the same time.  So at the beginning of a New Year, as you wipe the “Christmas cobwebs” out of your head and begin to settle back into a routine, I ask you to consider this question:

Are you seizing the ordinary, every day, “daily grind” kind of moments to teach your children about the preciousness of others?  If not, what can you today to begin anew?

(If you don’t have a church family of your own, and you live in the area, please consider joining us as Kory takes us on a journey through Parent World, starting tomorrow at Custer Road United Methodist Church. Services are at 9:00 and 10:30.  We’d love to have you!)

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