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Hope, Not Fear.

“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.  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 Haiti, 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?

 

Feel free to share in the comments below!

 

You’re a Better Youth Pastor than I am

I was on the phone with a parent awhile back and found myself making this statement as they were expressing a desire to do more for their kids in the realm of spiritual formation:

“I think you’re a better Youth Pastor than I am.”

I have this same feeling when I watch Coach Taylor in Friday Night Lights (one of my favorite TV series of all time!), but that’s another post.

I’m constantly aware of how my time and influence are limited.  Over the many years of doing youth ministry, I have often wished I had more time to spend with students or more time to put myself in places to meet and get to know even more students.  In reality, I’m often limited to pouring into a handful of students and trying to raise up leaders to pour into the others.  I imagine you feel this way as a parent at times.  You know the desires you have for your kids, but between work, their activities, household stuff, and (hopefully) time for yourself or your spouse – you are left wishing you could do more.

During that phone conversation with the parent, I realized they were doing more youth ministry than I was.  I absolutely believe it too.  Between carpools, going to sporting events, plays, etc.  They were getting to know more students and having more significant time with them than I’m able to do.  This got me thinking:

  • What if many parents are actually doing youth ministry and don’t even realize it?  What would happen if they realized the amount of influence and opportunity they had?
  • What if I could help them see a new way to view carpool or sitting in the stands at a sporting event?
  • What if parents could do a few small, easy things in the craziness of life that had BIG implications for their kids?  Implications that are much bigger than the time and “know how” required.

I’m not talking about starting a bible study in your carpool or trying to get everyone to sing along to 105.9 (or your favorite christian radio station).  But, what if you made a conscious decision to pray for each kid in your carpool as you drove them to school and overheard their everyday life conversations?  What if you simply took what you heard and what you desired for these few students to the Lord in prayer as you drove?  I imagine God would surprise you with His goodness in ways you never expected.

Take it one step further and let your son or daughter know that this is your practice.  Let them know that you care for their friends and pray for them as you drive.  Since faith is often “caught more than it is taught”, I imagine they would catch your eyes in the rearview mirror knowing what you are up to.  I can only imagine that this would make a huge impression on them knowing you care and you actively live out your faith, even in small ways.

Now, I know it’s summer, but summer is even more open to opportunities to be intentional in relationships and ministry to friends and family.

Here’s an article I came across after my conversation and added fuel to the fire…enjoy!

http://morfmagazine.com/article/spiritual-growth-hectic-schedule-0

What is one way you can view your everyday life with family/friends as an opportunity for ministry?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this!

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