For those of you that don’t keep up with the liturgical calendar, tomorrow is Ash Wednesday. The beginning of the Lent season. The 40 (or 46 depending on if you count Sundays) day period in which we, as believers, contemplate our need for redemption and repentance.
Lent, as a tradition, has incredible depth. It has its place. It has its meaning. But for some reason, over the years, I’ve noticed that Ash Wednesday has become the day in which scores of American teenagers will commit to giving up their social media accounts, coffee, Coca-Cola, PlayStation, or Netflix for a month.
Why? Because the overarching message of Ash Wednesday, although not intentional, can become – We’ve got to give up some things, let some things go, or “sacrifice” some things in order to earn God’s approval.
Its as if without even trying, we’ve unintentionally let the message of Lent be a message of sin management.
Parents, this year, spend some time during Lent talking to your teenagers about grace. Spend some time talking to them about how no matter what we give up, let go off, or “sacrifice” – we don’t have to earn God’s approval. Once we have been redeemed by the blood of Christ, He can’t love us any more or any less.
Now that I’m a father of 2 (still feels weird saying that) I’ve been thinking lately about the things I want my boys to know, or to learn from me. As a father, it’s my responsibility to teach them how to be a man, a husband, and a father. In light of that, here’s a small list of 20 things I want my boys to know from me:
- How to love their wives.. Our culture is saturated with “ideal husbands” who unashamedly are teaching our boys the wrong way to love their wives. I want my boys to know that real men love their wives by serving her. By laying down their lives for her. By continually dating her forever, and ever, and ever. I want my boys to know that loving their wives is the most important role they will ever have in their lives.
- Manners. I want my boys to know that words like “Please, Thank You, Yes Sir, Yes Mam, Excuse Me”, and “I’m Sorry” still mean something. I want my boys to hold doors for people. To let the mom with the screaming toddler cut him in line at the grocery store. To “wave people in” when they are driving.
- How to loose battles. In a culture where men are expected to “win” and “succeed’ at everything, I want my boys to know that loosing is okay. I want them to know how to loose gracefully. I want them to know that some battles aren’t worth fighting and it’s okay to “bow out” for the sake of the relationship. Not everything is about winning; some things are more important.
- You can never be too generous. When everyone else tells them to look out for themselves, I want my boys to know that they will never regret helping others, but they will be haunted by hoarding everything for yourself.
- Even dad’s can have fun. I don’t remember my dad ever having fun; everything was serious. I want my boys to know that dad’s have fun. They laugh, they dance, they tell jokes, they do silly stuff – even stuff that is embarrassing while others are watching.
- Miracles still happen. In a culture where everything can be rationalized, explained, and quantified, I want my boys to know that unexplainable miracles do still occur. I want them to experience the overwhelming odds of beating dad at a game when they are young (yes, I will let them win). I want them to feel the rush of the impossible coming true. I want them to believe that anything is possible. I want them to experience their own “David vs. Goliath” moments.
- Never stop imagining. Just because you “grow up” doesn’t mean you can’t daydream, imagine, and make believe. I want my boys to know that some of the healthiest and most rewarding things a man can do is imagine. I want my boys to forever ask the question, “What if…”
- How to listen. I want my boys to know how to listen… and not just pretend to listen. I want them to be men who are “quick to listen and slow to speak” (James 1:19). I want them to listen with their heart – not just their ears. I want them to listen better than I do.
- I want my boys to know they will never regret surrounding themselves with older, wiser people.
- How to pee outside. Every boy needs to know the proper way to mark a tree, a bush, or the side of a building. And it’s probably something mom shouldn’t be teaching them…
- Actions speak louder than words. I want my boys to be men of deeds and not just words. I want them to be the sort of men that 1 John 3:18 speaks of when it says, “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”
- How to be a man of their word.
- The heart of a woman is more important than the body of a woman. In a world where men are trained that physical beauty is the all important factor, I want my boys to know that the heart of a woman is what truly matters. Most likely her body will change for the worst (80 year old women don’t look like 30 year old women) but her heart will change for the better (80 year old hearts are incredibly loving and tender).
- Hero’s do exist – they just look a little different. I want my boys to know that life’s real hero’s aren’t the ones flying in capes, jumping off buildings, or saving our world from alien invasions; they are the men who are honoring their wives, loving their kids, serving the poor, laying down their selfishness, and looking out for the good of others in every situation. The real hero’s are the ones who follow Jesus in a world where that is difficult.
- Some things are worth fighting for. I want my boys to know that there are some things in life that are worth taking a stand for. Things like Jesus, honor, respect chivalry, family, and friends.
- How to shake hands.
- How to work hard. You’ll never regret giving everything 100%; you’ll always regret “What could have been.”
- Always look people in the eye. In a culture where everyone is multitasking and conversations are less intimate, I want my boys to know that looking people in the eyes creates trust and a sense of security. I want my boys to know that nothing is more important than the person sitting in front of them.
- When someone calls “shotgun” you honor that. I can’t be the father of boys who don’t honor the code…
- Jesus matters more than anything else. I want my boys to be men who passionately pursue Jesus above and beyond anything else in life. I want my boys to know that Jesus is the answer to everything and anything they could ever want or need. I want them to know that without Him, life is meaningless and futile.
Obviously this list could go on forever. What about you though? What are some things you would want your sons to know?
After working with teenagers for almost 9 years I’ve been privileged to have thousands of conversations on just about anything you can imagine. I realize recently that as profound and insightful as teenagers can be at times, they can also be just as awkward, unfiltered, and flat out hilarious without even trying. Time with students is never void of laughter.
In light of that I thought I’d periodically share some of the things they say so you can laugh as well.
Today’s edition – things students say about adoption (because my wife and I recently adopted).
So here we go:
- Student: “Oh cool! You got a new baby.” Me: “Yep, we sure did.” Student looks at Micah and pauses for a second then says, “Wait… he’s black? I didn’t realize your wife was black! She’s a pretty light skinned black person.”
- Student: “Oh wow! He’s so awesome. When did you bring him home?” Me: “About five days ago but we couldn’t really tell anyone until now.” Student: “Oh cool. So… where’s he from? Like where did you get him?” Me: “He’s from here in Arkansas. He’s domestic.” Student: “Oh awesome. Homegrown… sort of like potatoes.”
- Student: “Adam, you are so racist.” Another student: “Umm… he’s not racist. Haven’t you seen his baby? Hello.”
The church will be missional.
Previous generations have been marked by beliefs. (Check out the history of evangelicalism and fundamentalism in America for example)
Now… beliefs are a dime a dozen. This generation has seen just about every variety of spiritual belief one could ever imagine. And for the most part, their experience is that the “older generation” doesn’t really live out what they believe.
The next generation church won’t be constructed of the same model as the previous generation. It will be an atmosphere where instead of asking people to do believe what you believe, you will be inviting people to do what you do.
In other words, the “on ramp” to salvation experiences might be on Sunday mornings anymore. Instead, it will occur more frequently when Christian and non-Christian serve alongside each other at a soup kitchen, homeless shelter, or orphanage in Africa.
The church, under the leadership of this generation, will become more globally focused. The church will become more cause oriented. The church will be more missionaly-minded… and this will attract people.
It will be a faith lived, not a faith believed.
The church will be conversational.
More than any other generation in history, this generation grew up saturated with technology. They grew up on the internet. They grew up with cell phones. They grew up with DVR’s and all those other fancy things that previous generations only dreamed about. Their lives are saturated with technology.
Hence their label – “the digital generation.”
However, despite all the technology and “online conversation,” this generation is desperately craving intimate relationships. Their the only generation that can say they have 1,000 Facebook friends or Instagram followers, but still not feel like anyone really knows them.
While the next generation church will probably strive to continue being “cool” and “relevant”, the key ingredient is that it will be a conversational church. Conversation will matter. Stories will matter. Relationships will matter. Intimacy will matter. Transparency will matter.
Here’s what you might find:
- Less structured programmed environments and more organic relational environments
- Fewer mega-churches and more multi-site models with smaller relational hubs
- A less “polished” look on Sundays
- A resurrection of church pot-luck dinners? Perhaps…