Growing up, I had one of those old blue rectangular Kodak cameras with the orange “point and shoot” button. It came everywhere with me—including a trip my family took to Disney World. While there, I captured an image I still have a copy of. At the end of a long day as we left the park, my brother, sister and I lagged behind my parents, dragging our sore feet. As we made the trek out of the magic and into reality, I watched as my parents—oblivious to our watching— took each other’s hands.

At eleven years old, even I understood—I was witnessing magic. That was worth capturing. So, I snapped a picture. Two actually.

It may sound unremarkable. A small display of affection that caught a kid’s attention. But I think what I tried to memorialize represented more than a husband and wife stealing moments of warmth under their children’s watch. To me, it was a stabilizer. It was a security. It was a chance to exhale a sigh of relief. “There is something right in the world,” it told me. Love was on display. So, I took a picture, understanding even then, moments like these are worth noting.

Jesus, at the Last Supper, made sure the disciples knew the importance of their love being manifested in a real, tangible, way. “The world will know Me because of how well you love each other,” He asserted. Meaning, to show Jesus’ best, we must love each other—and when we do, the observing world will notice.

This wasn’t a passage recorded with parents in mind—but contains wisdom for those of us leading our tiny tribe. Jesus insists love makes a difference, love effectuates, love matters not only to the ones receiving it, but also to the ones witnessing it. Which makes love powerful indeed—maybe particularly in the impressionable lives of the little ones we are raising.

I am one of the lucky ones—privy to purposeful displays of love between my parents, observing a good marriage—and ultimately witnessing Jesus in the midst. But my parent’s 40-year marriage isn’t typical these days—the storybook plotline of familial bliss is more rare than common. In many ways the deck seems stacked against families as we fight for peace, longevity, and connection.

But I also know this. All hope is not lost. Though an uphill battle, though family circumstances may be less than ideal, our potential to display something big—for the sake of our kids and in the lives of our kids—is not diminished. Though our families may look different, though the dream of what we wanted to be may be a far cry from where we currently are, there is an achievable end for every one of us—and by extension, our kids. Love—intentional, directed, consistent love.

Which is why Jesus’ words matter. As parents, we don’t have to have perfect circumstances, relationships, marriage, or kids for love to show up and for love to matter. Love demonstrated and observed matters as much now as it ever has. The world is watching—but also and always, our kids are watching. What if we gave them something to watch? To marvel at? To be intrigued by? To be inspired to imitate?

What if . . .
loving our kids,

matters more than we ever thought?

More than our dysfunction?

Because we never know who’s taking note—a stranger, or our very own child. We never know who is observing, desperate for a picture of something good. Something real. Something magic.

In your commitment to display love, you may give someone—especially those you share a roof with—the opportunity to snap a mental picture of you—and give them Jesus in the process.