Monday, February 12, 2018

Parenting Safari

As our family grew I lost any of the coolness that I ever thought I had.  As more bundles of joy began blessing our home, the first thing to go was the sporty SUV.  We needed something much more practical, a Minivan.  We started with two old Chrysler Town and Countrys with wood panel decals, then finally a GMC Safari. That van had three rows of “don’t make me come back there” seating for 8. It was “so not cool”, but we discovered that the minivan was a great place to disciple our kids. They were captive in car seats, they had no control over the audio, and it was the first place Mom could help them process what happened at school, sports practice, or a friend’s house.

With four kids, we were always going somewhere… school, soccer, dance, swim, church and long trips to see the relatives. The minivan became a little chapel on wheels for our kids and their friends. We began with an opening prayer for a “hedge of protection” around our vehicle. As you can imagine, these preacher’s kids also had to listen to Bible Songs, Kids’ Praise music, and every episode of Veggietales. (And if you turned it up loud enough it would drown out even the most obnoxious whining.) When it was a bad day, conversations were steered toward God’s amazing love and forgiveness. When there were challenges to be faced the next day with a tough assignment or a difficult classmate, the discussion turned toward a Biblical life lesson. And when an ambulance came by we prayed for anyone who was hurt. The kids soon learned scripture and godly values as they rode around.

But don't get the wrong impression, just like most "churches," we also had our share of dysfunctional behavior in that van. Short tempered parents spewing angry outbursts at kids who were doing the best they could at the moment. Selfish choices to not share the snack or whatever. Sippy-cups thrown at siblings. Stopping at every other exit on a 2 hour trip, because, despite the warnings, at least one of them didn't use the restroom at the last stop. We definitely weren't the most emotionally or spiritually healthy van on the road, however, by God's grace He used it to help disciple all of us.

We were learning to share cheetos in that van, and to respect each other, and wait our turn to talk. We had a lot of joy in that van too... Singing together (we are definitely not the Von Trapp family) and we often got to hear the latest joke or funny incident at school.

Perhaps some of the most important discipling came during middle school carpools. My wife would sit, listen and gently steer the conversation back to something more healthy when the language took a turn for the worse.Once, my wife had a daily 45 minute commute each way to the gym with 7 middle school cheerleaders. She was not sure what kind of impact her driver’s seat discipling had made on these girls from various family backgrounds. But when one of them broke her elbow trying to do a handspring, they all ran straight to my wife asking for prayer and looking to her for support.  

Maybe that rolling Bible-to-life-lesson classroom in the uncool van did make a difference… our adult children still want to follow Jesus...

Deuteronomy 6:5-7 (NIV) Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6  These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. 7  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you go along the road... 

This article appeared in GoodNews Christian Magazine March 2018, Page 22.