Last night at the dinner table my five- and three-year-old daughters asked me an important question:
“Daddy, may I have a drink of your drink please?”
As was the case last night as most nights, I was drinking a Dr. Pepper, and as was the case with my answer last night as most nights, I said:
“Okay, but only a sip.”
I am a fifth generation Texan. Being a Texan, a Dr. Pepper addiction, it seems to me, is my God-given birthright. And truth be told, I am addicted to the stuff. That’s not hyperbole… I really am addicted. When I lived in Seattle for a time, my friends there made dawg-fun of me for not drinking coffee, being as it is that Seattle is the Mecca to which caffeine addicts the world over pour out three cups daily. Not me. I can’t stand the stuff. Tastes like burnt – I dunno – burnt something.
Dr. Pepper? That’s different. I love my caffeine cold and sweet, hopefully over some Sonic pellet ice, and in the “Route” 44 ounce variety, please. Dr. Pepper is 23 flavors of home-grown, Waco Texas, happiness in a cup, and I love it. No, really. I *love* it.
And you know what happens to me when I don’t get my morning Dr. Pepper? I get a headache. I get grumpy. I have a hard time staying focused. I yawn a lot. I’m kinda a grizzly bear to be around, and it’s noticeable to anyone that I’m an addict in need of a fix. The high-fructose corn syrup and the caffeine help me power through my mornings. You are probably saying to yourself right now that it is terrible for my body. It’s bad for my health. It’s bad for my kidneys. It’s bad for my waistline. It’s bad for my teeth. It’s bad for my heart. And it is – all of those things, and who knows what else.
My kids, of course, don’t know this. They don’t know that the yummy drink Daddy drinks by the quart is an addiction for me. They don’t know that it’s bad for me. They do, however, know that I drink the stuff like a fish drinks water, and that I like it so much that I’ve been known to make us late for church because Daddy needed to grab a Dr. Pepper first along the way.
They also know that it’s not a “kid’s drink”, because Daddy tells them that. We don’t let them order soft drinks (except for maybe an occasional orange soda or lemonade) for reasons you can guess, many of which are spelled out above.
And yes, that makes me a big ol’ honkin’ hypocrite. Ah well. Confession is good for the soul.
But my point in all this now follows:
Do you know why my kids want a taste of my Dr. Pepper? It’s not because it’s Dr. Pepper (as yummy as it is). If I were drinking coffee, or gin and tonic, or a bottle of Bordeaux from fine Austrian crystal or some malt duck out of a red Solo cup, my kids would still want to have a sip of what Daddy is drinking.
They want a drink of my Dr. Pepper because they are watching me. Because it is ritual for me. Because what is ritual for me becomes something that they want to understand. Because what is ritual for me – what is my habit – is something they are learning that must for some reason be important. And because apparently Daddy thinks Dr. Pepper is REALLY, REALLY GOOD. Daddy likes it. A lot.
And mostly they want a drink of Daddy’s Dr. Pepper because they want to be like Daddy.
So by way of my confession I’ve shared with you my hypocrisy and my addiction and my poor example. But in doing so, I’d like you to stop for a moment and think about what rituals, habits and addictions you’re teaching your kids, or your wife, or your team at work, or the stranger you sit next to in Starbucks while getting your own fix. They may not even be bad. What are you teaching, and to whom?
For me, the application of this lesson is simple: my kids are watching me. They are learning from me. And here’s where it gets convicting from my side of the keyboard:
Am I teaching them as much about the power and importance of prayer as I am about sugar and caffeine? Are they seeing me habitually consuming my time in the Bible? Do they see me pouring blessings into their lives every single day – as a matter of habit – by telling them how special they are to me? Am I religious in showing them that they are completely and unconditionally loved? Do they see me showering attention and affection on their mother in an example of how a loving leader serves his bride?
Or do they see me stumble bleary-eyed towards the door every morning (because I haven’t had my jolt of DP yet) pausing to give them a kiss on the head and a “Have a good day and obey your mom” before disappearing until dinner time?
I’d ask that as you go through your day today, reflect with me on the rituals, habits and addictions of your own life as I do the same with mine. Remember with me that those people who follow us as leaders are watching and learning from us. Consider with me the sorts of habits that we teach – consciously or otherwise – and those that we should be teaching them.
Deuteronomy 6:6-9 (ESV) says:
“And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
You see, not all habits are bad habits.
When the day comes that I am no longer leading the members of my family, and that day WILL come, I suppose there are worse things that could be said than “Daddy really loves Dr. Pepper”. Yet I would hope that through their observation of my habits, my children would say something nearer to “I know Daddy loves us, that he loves Mommy, he loves Jesus, and he loves God’s Word. Daddy is addicted to telling me and showing me these things every day by how he lives his life – and that his day isn’t complete without demonstrating through his own life how much God loves me.”
My kids are watching me, and they are learning about the things in life that matter, and the things in life that are delicious.
I pray that my kids will perhaps be spared my addiction to sugary brown soft drinks (I seriously need to just quit). And I pray that my kids will see in me a man who instead is consumed by Grace, habitually in God’s Word, addicted to a loving Savior, and who craves those things wholly and completely every single day and above everything else. Lord, let me be addicted to loving my family; to teaching them, blessing them, leading them and serving them. Let my habits be ones that incessantly glorify you in their watchful eyes.
In sharing this addiction, my children may drink from my cup, as much and as often as they wish, and with my blessing. I will keep their cup filled just as my Father keeps mine.