Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Transitional Parenting & the End of the World as We Know It

Our family is taking the Bible-in-90-Days challenge along with the rest of our church. The idea is to read twelve pages a day for 90 days and to get through the whole thing cover to cover by Resurrection Day. What a joy to be doing this all together! We are having great discussions at home and with church friends. It is the first time all the way through for our youngest.

We have reached the Gospels by now. This week, I was struck by the number of times Jesus had to tell His disciples that the Kingdom of Heaven would not be at all like people expected it would be. He compared the coming of the Kingdom to enormous natural disaster-type upheavals: earthquakes, the heavens rolled up like a scroll, mountains crumbling into the sea...Yet most of the time what He was describing wasn't the physical end of the world, but instead was the replacement of the strictly Jewish administration of God's covenant with men by the Church administration of that covenant. It was the end of the world as they knew it.

People must have been blinking and staggering. They could see Jesus and His gigantic capacity for everything they longed for in a leader. But they couldn't see this Kingdom. Rome wasn't falling at His feet. Well not even the Jewish leaders were falling at His feet. There was no army, no crown, no pomp. But there was something. Something so appealing, so poignantly satisfying, so invisibly magnetic. Something real but not yet really seen.

I can't help thinking that parenting young adults is a lot like that. The way they work out the principles parents have taught them doesn't look like we thought it would. So much of them is coming into dazzling focus, and so much is still hidden, still developing. They are as much potential as actual. It's like having double vision: sometimes they are all grown up; sometimes they are still children.

And our world is shifting under our feet. When our children were younger, we were responsible to cast a vision for them, to train them carefully. We had the privilege of creating opportunities for them to exercise their fledgling powers and for revealing their gifts as we saw fit. As they move into adulthood, that is less and less true. Increasingly, they take up the vision; they exercise their gifts in the places where they see needs. Sometimes when we direct them to apply themselves in a certain direction, we find they have already been there. Sometimes when we refrain from directing, we find they were oblivious to the problem.

It's hard to remember that they are already adults, but not yet. It's hard to keep in mind that it is no longer our job to keep them from stumbling, but to keep them learning from the skinned knees - with humble sympathy. The fact is that we are stumbling, too, in this phase of life. We are all experiencing the same earthquake. It really is the end of the world as we know it.

The best we can do - and it's not insignificant - is to make sure that their hand is in the hand of the One who is at the still center of our reeling world. Hang on and try to laugh together. When the new day is fully come, we will see the dawn together and be ready to build afresh together shoulder to shoulder. It is also the beginning of the new world.
Find further expeditions into transitional parenting on Kim's new audio disk, Quests & Homecomings.

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