Life is full of defining moments. Moments that shape our character, develop our talents, test our humility, challenge our thinking, push our limits and shake our foundations. It is in those moments that we learn the most about ourselves. Some moments leave us with great feelings of accomplishment and pride in the outcome, others leave us feeling we can never measure up and leave a trail of disappointment everywhere we go. Sometimes we square our shoulders, look the challenge in the eyes and run boldly into the moment, other times we throw the blanket over our heads, curl up in the bed and beg the moment to go away. Regardless of the type of moment we are faced with, they all leave their mark. Each is for a purpose; to teach us a life lesson or smooth out the rough edges in our personality. Through each we learn about ourselves and our Creator.
This process can be particularly maddening for parents. As a mother of four incredible teenagers I know first hand the emotional roller coaster of watching your children walk through defining moments. For reasons I can not figure out, they choose to make the process maddeningly complicated by facing their moments in no particular pattern! If they could only get on the same page. Or better yet, if only they could learn by watching the other sibling walk through moments. I suppose watching and learning isn’t quite as powerful as experiential learning.
For two of the twenty years we have served in ministry, my husband and I served as youth pastors. I honestly believe youth pastoring is one of the toughest jobs in the church. You not only have to have all the answers for the youth you are leading, but you have to have the answers for the parents too. I remember several times that parents would come to us in tears because, in their kids had, “lost their minds and gone crazy”. Being in our mid-twenties with two two babies, we would listen and try to console them and assure them that their kids would be OK. I remember looking into the eyes of one particular parent as she wept over her child and wondering how I would ever survive my kids becoming teenagers.
Luckily for me, I have a brother who is eight years younger than I. Like most youngest and third in line, he was a handful. Not because he was horribly misbehaved but because he was curious. He questioned everything! He took things apart just to see what they looked like inside, he asked a bazillion questions about everything and it only made sense that one day he would question about God. I watched my parents walk through those tough seasons with him and was amazed at how they allowed him to question the existence of God and make choices they knew would come back to bite him, ever praying that the lessons he learned in church, the scriptures he had recited as a child and the miracles he had seen would begin to transform from seed to well watered, fruit bearing trees. I remember being in awe and wondering if I had to, would I be able to make the same tough choices that, although gut wrenching, would be for the benefit of my child. As we sat with the weeping mother, the memories of all my parents walked through flooded my mind. In that moment it was if God pulled back the cobwebs from my brain and I remembered a phrase I had heard as a child, “You can’t get to heaven on your mother’s skirt tails”. For the first time I truly understood what that meant.
Our responsibility as parents is to point the way, live by example, plant seeds of truth and teach our children about God. We model to them how to have an intimate relationship with Him. We teach them by letting them see us reading our Bible and hear us praying. But one day they have to decide to have a relationship with God. Our children have to question and walk through times of wondering if God is real, does He care, does He heal, why does He let bad things happen, etc… We forget that it has to be personal for them. Our instinct as parents is to protect and fix things. We don’t want our children to experience the painful things that we may have endured. We don’t want them to be ridiculed or disappointed, we want only the best. In wanting that for our kids we often forget that God has to become personal to them. At some point they will have to decide if the God of their parents is trustworthy enough to place their future in His hands. He has to move from a knowledge of Him to a relationship with Him. We forget that each of us that have a relationship with God walked through the same defining moment. We have all questioned in one way or another whether or not God existed. We have all wondered if His Word was true or just words in an ancient manuscript that made an interesting read. We have all wondered why good people suffer and have felt alone in the universe.
My encouragement to you today is to remember and trust God to gently guide those who are questioning. Trust that the seeds planted will sprout and take hold. Trust that if He was capable of taking you through the process that He will take those you love through it as well. Our friends, loved ones and children will all face the pinnacle of defining moments; the one moment that secures their future and validates their existence. They each have to question and then decide to allow God to define Himself to them and make Himself real. Our responsibility is to pray, to model and to be available, not be judgmental. God loved you enough to define your moment, give Him room to define the moments for others.
p.s. – I am happy to say that my brother is now leading his own family through the steps of developing a relationship with God. Amazing what God will do when we get out of the way and let Him work.