Measuring Up


Every year, sometime around our birthdays, my dad would take us children downstairs and mark our height on a wall in a basement room. This was an important ritual, especially for my brothers and me. I remember straightening my back, tilting my head to its highest angle, and even holding my breath so I could achieve the greatest height possible. When I felt mv dad lift the pencil off the wall, I would turn around to evaluate how much I had grown that year.

Some years I was disappointed to see how close the mark was to the previous year’s mark and how far away it still was from my older siblings’ markings. And then there were other years when I walked away feeling so tall that I just knew a professional basketball scout would be waiting for me upstairs.

But the feeling I remember most clearly was the steadiness, even the predictability, of my dad’s response. Whether I measured tall or short or just plain average, my dad smiled at me the same, put his arm around my shoulders, and said, “I’m proud of you, son.”

At the time I wondered why he wasn’t more exultant when I passed my own and others’ marks, or more disappointed when I was still so close to previous years’ markings. But now I realize that my father knew something of the ebb and flow of life and also of the unchanging worth of his children.

Whether I was taller or shorter in comparison to others did not matter to him. He loved me just because I was his son, and he was my father. I sometimes wonder if my dad didn’t measure us each year just to let us know that—however we measured up—he was equally proud of our growth. My father knew the dangers of comparing ourselves to others. He knew that when we compare our personal growth with that of others, we think either that we are better than someone else or that we’re inferior. Both attitudes are equally wrong, and my father taught me that when we take time to reflect, to ponder, and to pray, we see ourselves more as Heavenly Father sees us.

I think that for my father, measuring our height was a way of getting us to reflect about where we stood—not just physically, but also spiritually in relation to our Heavenly Father. Standing tall meant much more to him than physical stature.

Just as my annual trip to the basement room wall helped me to realize my father’s love for me, taking a moment to prayerfully evaluate our spiritual growth will help us to feel of God’s perfect love for us. As we grow spiritually throughout our lives, we can be sure that our infinitely loving eternal Father is proud of each bit of progress. He knows our worth, and his love is unchanging and eternal.

[illustration] Illustrated by Greg Newbold