A few years back, my soon-to-be college bound teens and I decided to venture into the wild—well at least the wild that a pre-made campsite with running water could provide. The campsite was beautiful and also offered a guarded hope for time together that teenage busyness often steals. Cell phones with no service. An electronics fast. Sitting around a fire. The perfect conversational moment. As dark fell, Sammi and Joe began to speak, often finishing each other’s narratives. The closeness of their age had forged a bond rarely articulated, but audible through the fire’s smoke. The flames magnified smoldering issues that existed just below the surface. As we sat, hidden concerns were aired, filling the dark night. They talked of three friends attempting suicide this summer, one still in critical condition. Another friend nearly dying of alcohol poisoning. Lesbianism. Bulimia. Pornography. Disdain for God, parents, country, self. Their concerns felt like hot pokers, eliciting sorrow, anger, helplessness, fear. My parental instincts make me want to extinguish their pain. Their daily challenges were so different from my teenage years. What will their futures look like after walking through these flames of adolescence?
I realized that I don’t have all the answers about their futures. I have the feeling that what they will end up doing may be with companies, occupations and technologies that don’t even exist yet. And ultimately it is just that, their futures. But I am convicted at my lack of intentionality in stoking vital fires within them…after all, my role as a parent is to influence and lead. Where had I let my own busyness postpone important conversations in favor of the tyranny of the urgent? Or maybe the topic was too hot for me to find a way to broach it, avoiding the inevitable discomfort. What can I do now to further impart the values I hold so dear, to give them the tools to see the light though the smoke, to make choices that will move them forward not leave them in a piles of ash?
Whether you are a parent or not, you are called to influence those around you. Is there a conversation you need to have with someone that you keep putting off? Is there someone you need to go on an “electronics fast” with and spend a few uninterrupted hours experiencing the deeper conversation that only expanded time allows? How can you be intentional about carving out unbroken time with those you have the unique opportunity to influence and push the daily grind past superficial existing into impactful living?