“Every decision we make today will be driven by fear or love. Who we toss the keys to determines a lot about the destination.” –Bob Goff
Several years ago a good friend of mine gave a talk on parenting out of hope, as opposed to parenting out of fear and it has stuck with me. I didn’t have kids then, but I knew I needed to remember this message. At the time, parenting out of fear was easy to dismiss, however I knew enough about parenting to realize fear can be a constant companion. Now that I’m a parent, I know that a lot of time is spent worrying about the big and meaningful and small and trivial. It’s easy to get caught up in worrying about our kids. It’s easy to begin to parent and make decisions based on that worry or fear.
Think about it. What emotions do you experience when you anticipate any major milestone in your child’s life? First steps. First day of school. Last day of school. First taste of failure or rejection. Dating relationships. Driving. College.
You get the idea. There can be a lot of worry, anxiety, and fear in these situations. Do these emotions drive your response? Do you quickly rush in to build fences of protection? Are your actions motivated by fear above all else?
Helicopters and Lawnmowers
In our culture today, there’s a reason many parents are described as “helicopter parents” who monitor and watch over their child’s every move (“How helicopter parents are ruining college students”). Or, even worse, “lawnmower parents” who mow over any obstacle in their kids path (“Don’t Be a Helicopter Or Lawnmower Parent”).
But, what if we didn’t let fear rule the day? What if we decided to adopt a posture of hope for our kids? Instead of spending anxious energy worrying about possibilities that may exist “out there”, what if we began to pray our hopes and our dreams for our kids in these situations?
When I was in high school, I had the opportunity to go on a trip with a small group of people. It was incredible opportunity to spend a week with my youth pastor, the director of a large Christian summer camp, and other men and women who would have a huge impact on my life. It was a chance to do something significant that would change my worldview. It was a chance to have a formative experience in the this great big world we live in.
The problem for my parents was that it was in a third-world country where my safety could not be guaranteed. A country where our car might be surrounded by a large crowd at the airport (which it was) or where I would find my self in the presence of automatic weapons often (which I did) or where we would be taking a picture of the beautiful countryside and then get rushed into the bus because we were no longer safe there and needed to leave quickly (which happened).
My parents had a lot to be afraid of and plenty of fear and worry, but they allowed me to go. They chose to adopt a posture of hope. They chose to hope that this trip would expand my heart for God. They hoped it would be a trip where I rubbed shoulders with adult men and women who were following Jesus with all they had. They hoped I would see poverty up close and understand more about God’s heart for the orphan and the oppressed. They hoped I would go on a great adventure and it would plant a seed to continue to follow God into the tough places and be a light to those in need.
It was their hope, not their fear, that came true and that trip remains a significant part of who I am and my faith journey. If fear ruled the day, my parents would have been seen as reasonable and responsible parents. No one would have faulted them. But I wouldn’t have experienced the growth and transformation that trip allowed. This trip shaped my high school years and ultimately my future. I’m thankful for their courage.
Echoing Jesus’ Prayer
Recently, I came across Jesus prayer in John 17 and decided to adopt it for my own kids. As Jesus’ time on earth is coming to an end, he prays for those he will be leaving behind. Jesus knows what is out there and what they will be up against. He knows the dangers of the world and desires to protect those he loves. Knowing this he prays:
“Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name…my prayer is not that you take them out of the world, but that you protect them from the evil one.” John 17: 11, 15
For my kids, my prayer is that they will engage the world and be a light of God’s love to those they meet. In order to grow into the strong, courageous person that requires, I have to let go of control. I have to take risks. I have to allow them to fail. I need to give them space to grow and explore. Is that going to be easy? It’s not proving to be. But when I step back and imagine the end (my little girls as adults living in the world), I know the answer lies in hope not in fear. God, give us the courage to trust you, cultivate hope and smother fear.
What does it look like for you to echo Jesus prayer for you kids? What protections do you need to trust God for? What ways do you need to allow them to stay in the world and engage? In what ways are you doing God’s job of protecting and need to take a step back?
There will be a part two to this post coming soon with some practical thoughts on this can play out, but until then:
Who are you giving the keys to – fear or hope?