Over the last few weeks, well 6 to be accurate, I have been able to spend some good time with my children. We did the normal day trips out to the zoo and other locations that were utterly mobbed by parents just like me. A look of desperation in our eyes, exhausted from having the children on their summer holidays, mixed with hope and an inevitability that back to school was just days away.
But, having sown that picture of misery mixed with fun, this summer was a really valuable one for me, as I learn to treasure and seize these moments as they happen.
What I am talking about is the relationship that is growing with my eldest child, an 11-year-old, incredibly beautiful and profound deep thinker. She is navigating her world and asking the questions that matter for her life. I think this is a great phase for us fellas and perhaps one where we can really come online. Maybe you are a dad who has thrived on the broken sleep and nappies, good for you, personally I am enjoying this next phase.
This got me thinking about a bible verse in Jeremiah 6:16.
Thus says the Lord,
“Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths,
Where the good way is, and walk in it;
And you will find rest for your souls.
But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’
Training and discipling, mentoring and shaping the generation to come is essential. Gradually I have seen my daughter come to me to help navigate her mind, questions and paths with the wisdom from her old dad’s journey. (If she actually takes this wisdom and implements it is another issue altogether, but the point is the exchange is at least happening!)
For our children, or the children around us that we have a positive impact on, the process of rights of passage from childhood to adult hood is one that needs our support, guidance and stability. How did you cross that threshold from being a boy to a man? Did you get a car? Mark a line in the sand by some sort of initiation? I think our society is in desperate need for this approach to young lives. For them to see the bar, the target and the measure and then to really know when they have reached it, crossed and ‘got there’ is vitally important.
I was at the gym a few nights back skipping for my grand challenge (4 hours non-stop skipping) and I was watching a programme about young black men in London producing ‘drill’ music and basically stabbing each other. I am not trying to simplify these issues, as history tells us there is a melting pot of problems that culminate in this desperate pattern of destruction in these young lives. But, I do believe that when lives are shaped, invested in, loved and allowed to be taken on a journey that makes the transitions into adulthood, whilst seeking to listen and build rather than burn their hopes, dreams and passions, then and only then will we see a change.
Listening and giving wisdom isn’t only about sharing our pearls of knowledge, it is more about listening, understanding and seeing the shape, size and flavour of their journey and how we steer and guide within that rather than mould our life and experience over theirs.
I think that this process takes on even more significance and beauty when we do all of this through the power of prayer and presence of the Holy Spirit. When we invest for the gospel, use the tools of prayer and the Bible to align and calibrate the process of maturity, passion, dreams and identity in the generation to come we will see things happen that will shatter our expectations.
Image Credit: Alberto Bigoni