My family and I were shopping in Costco the other day. As usual, my son presented the receipt to the employee standing by the door. We have learned that it is their custom to draw a happy face on the back of the receipt for all the young children who pass by. My son held up the receipt and with excitement in his voice, asked for a happy face.
Grinning widely, the employee asked my son ‘Now, what’s the magic word?” Dutifully, my son responded “Tickle Pickles!”
You are probably wondering what the phrase ‘Tickle Pickles’ is all about. It is the phrase that I use when I do magic tricks for my son and the children in his class. It is the phrase spoken just before the magical effect takes place. As my son has seen me do magic tricks countless times, he has thus become quite familiar with these words. In fact for him, there is no “Abracadabra”, or “Alakazaam”; and “Please” is no so much a magic word as it is a matter of respect and politeness.
Now, I never set out to make “Tickle Pickles” exclusively the magic words for my son. It was never my intention to form him in this manner. But nonetheless, the model that I have provided for him has lead to this result. The fact that he has seen me utter this phrase time and time again has completely influenced and formed his understanding of magic words.
This event got me thinking: what other messages have my son picked up? We live in a culture where there is a constant barrage of images and slogans which carry specifically crafted messages designed to influence our thoughts, perceptions and behaviours. These aren’t just reserved for the traditional advertising mediums of commercials and magazine spreads. Now-a-days, product placement in major motion pictures is constant, advertisers influence the dialogue that occurs in major network television programs, and celebrities are paid to endorse certain products through their social media outlets.
But the messages that flow through media are not solely product based. There is the subtle endorsement that image equals success. Individualism is prized over community as fewer and fewer television shows portray healthy and supportive friendships. Hosts of physically and emotionally destructive behaviors occur without thought consequence. There are messages all around us, and just like ‘Tickle Pickles’ my son is naturally tuned in.
But here is the good news. As large and as forceful as media may be, a child’s parents are still the number one influence on their life. All is not lost. Moms and Dads, Grandma’s and Grandpa’s, Aunts and Uncles still have an unconquered role to play. How we live our lives before others speaks volumes to the people, young and old, who are watching us.
This is quite the opportunity for us who are called to live faithfully in this world. How is grace modeled n our lives? What does it mean to model faithful behavior in the context of work, school, and social life? How does our relationship with Jesus influence how we perform the tasks of the day, interact with others, or speak to those around us? This is why Paul reminds us in the book of Ephesians to “‘be very careful how we live, not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity” (5:15). Our actions, our interactions, and our speech have a direct influence on how others perceive, God, Jesus, and the church. Our modeling of a life of faith has direct influence the faith development of another. This isn’t something that we control. This is not something that we are able to pick up and put down whenever we feel like it. It just is.
Our role as Christians in the wider community of the world, and as father, mothers, brothers, sisters and friends in the smaller community of our relationships is the same: We are called to be diligent and authentic in living out our faith. Because like it or not, people are watching; and in doing so they are learning about what a life faith is truly about.
How do you intentionally try to model your life of faith to those who are around you?