The Magic Kingdom - On Being a Dad Part II
A little magic goes a long way. The kingdom of God is a kingdom of magic. Magic, hidden in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. The story of Christ is the story that is too good to be true and hearing that this story is true, is magic. Children’s occasional encounters with magic draw back the curtain and offers a glimpse of what God has in store for them in Christ. Romans 5:8 is a magical message: “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners (i.e. enemies of the One True God), Christ died for us.” Children need to occasionally see that stories like this—stories that seem too good to be true—really are true. In a previous post, I wrote that a good father is the model of grace in the home; good fathers also provide this sense of magic for children. At the core of the universe is the Father and He will make magic happen. His is the Magic Kingdom, and He will come through on His promises. Earthly fathers are a picture, or analogy of God, to their children. Good earthly fathers will likewise come through on their promises in the end. And the little bits of magic and magical experiences that they provide reflect God’s love.
So how is this done? The first step is for fathers to realize that they are like God to their children. When a child gazes upon their father, they see creator, provider, protector, and redeemer. Not in as a perfect picture, but as a foggy comparison. In his recordings, When Good Fathers Die, It's Always Too Early, Dr. Rod Rosenbladt (Rod) casts a spell over his audience as he tells them stories about the magic that his father brought into his life.
But he also notes that just normal fathering is magic to a child. As I mentioned previously, I never knew my father, so these magical moments, in my case came from male family members, friend’s fathers, and eventually mentors like Rod. In the lives of my children I cannot say that I remember being “magic,” but I do remember just being their dad. I also remember a few magical traditions that I led them through along the way.
There is a concept in literature and film, coined by J.R.R. Tolkien, called eucatastrophe. This is when the author paints a picture revealing to the audience that the final card played will be the ultimate turning point where redemption is won. The prince arrives to break the spell that has kept Sleeping Beauty and her kingdom asleep for 100 years. Children, relate to this because they need rescuing from the monotony of everyday life as much as sleeping beauty, they need a little eucatastrophe.
A good father provides this rescue. He breaks in and relieves the mother from a day spent at war—keeping the children from killing one another and destroying the home—and announces that he is taking the kids to a movie and ice cream, and tells mom to go get a pedicure. He simultaneously rescues the children and gives mom a well-deserved break. Such things are magic.
I love movies. Movies can be a sudden glimpse into what should be. I believe that there is magic in movies. Is this magic true? The answer is yes if the author and filmmaker have spun the story well. I have through the years, attempted to pour some of this magic onto my children. I have a picture in my mind of my eldest son Caleb, at four years old waiting in line with me at midnight to get into see Star Wars Episode I - The Phantom Menace.
So, throughout the years of raising our children, I have made this habit of attending the midnight pre-show of movies—a tradition that brings a little bit of magic into our lives. This is part of the magic of being a father to my children, though it has occasionally led to some marital strife. I have loved sharing this magic with my children through the years and taking them to the surprise midnight pre-show only adds to that magic. Adding magic to the lives of your children is not hard, it is just part of remembering what it was like to be a child and being given something that seemed too good to be true. And trust me, staying out until 2:00am with dad while mom worries at home, to see the most exciting movie ever, is magic!
Another way fathers bring magic is by giving the unexpected “Yes!”. Fathers can say yes to things that mothers are often uncomfortable saying yes to. As Roald Dahl said in The Minpins:
“Little Billy’s mother was always telling him exactly what he was allowed to do. All the things he was allowed to do were boring. All the things he was not allowed to do were exciting. One of the things he was never never allowed to do, the most exciting of them all, was to go through the garden gate by himself and explore the world beyond.”
So, a 10-year-old asks if he can ride his bike to the store alone. Mother worries about his safety and says such things are not allowed. But, father... father remembers the sense of freedom and adventure his own bicycle once provided and says "Yes". The father brings magic by saying “Yes” to adventure, daring, exploration, and trust. The magic of the unexpected “Yes” is not turning our head to wrong doing, but rather to realize that children will not thrive on a steady diet of "wait till your father gets home" discipline only.
The father produces the magic where she, the mother, doesn't feel alienated when he delivers; over and over again. The unexpected “Yes” is necessary to remind and point us to the unexpected “Yes” that we have been granted on account of Christ.
Luther once claimed that the father is a priest to his own home. A priest is the one that makes the sacrifices and brings the miracle, or the magic, the unexpected "Yes" and sudden turn of redemption to the people. The father does play that role for his children. If you had a good father, tell your kids the story about that man. If you are a good father, remind your kids you remember what it was like to be a child and experience the wonder of little acts of magic.
Tell your children about the Christmas where you received the unexpected gift. Or tell them about the surprise vacation, or the midnight pre-showing of your favorite movie.
Give your children little glimpses of the turning points that will tell them that it is going to be okay in the end. In little ways, the Magic Kingdom of God is reflected in the Magic Kingdom of the father’s home. What are your stories of little moments of magic that in a foggy way have pointed to Christ?