Learning how to Launch Rockets
I’ve been listening to an audio book by Rob Bell called “Launching Rockets.” It’s a book about parenting. In the book, more like a 3-hour podcast, Rob and his spouse, Kristen, share 17 insights for parents in today’s world. In the next couple of weeks, I will be preaching about the subject of parenting and reflecting on what it means to be a parent in today’s world. As a parent myself, I think there are some inherent dangers as I try to preach about parenting. The first danger is that I will only look to my past and give all of those new parents out there, a “here is the way you ought to do it” kind of message. But, as I listen and read about parenting in today’s world, I have discovered that parenting in today’s world is much different that it was in 1985! And so the first insight I’ve had in reading and understanding parenting today, is that it I don’t know much…and I have much to learn.
Second, one of my fears is that as I announce this mini-sermon series, people who aren’t parents anymore or never have been, will say: “hey, why go to worship on these two Sundays? Pastor Brook is preaching on parenting, that doesn’t pertain to my world.” And as much as I get that, my response to that thought is to say that as a church that cares for the world and celebrates baptisms, parenting, ought to be a key component in our hearts no matter what. At a baptism, there are three covenants or promises made. One is by God…a promise that God, who’s love has always been there, will continue to be there…no matter what. The second is made by the parents: we promise to surround our child with God’s unconditional love, and to raise this child so that they will know and experience a relationship with God, so that at some time in their life, they will be able to say a healthy “yes” to God. And then a third promise is made by the us, the church: to surround this child and his or her parents with God’s unconditional love and support and assist these parents and this child in their journey towards God. In other words, we promise to care and help and teach and learn alongside this family.
In Rob and Kristen Bell’s book, what I’ve learned so far is that two emotions seem to pervade the hearts of many parents today. The first is the feeling of being overwhelmed. Parenting is relentless in its demands and sometimes the larger purpose for our work as parents is lost in the day to day grind. There are days that parents wake up and find that they are not enjoying this at all…and sometimes this bleeds into not enjoying their children! They lose the JOY of parenting. They no longer see the wonder that they truly are. And fail to remember why they chose to become parents in the first place. Admittedly this can be hard to remember when you have stayed up all night with a sick child, and have to get up early to change the dirty sheets and find a babysitter so that we can get to work and earn a paycheck. So, when parents come to church, they are often hypersensitive to looks and words. The last thing they need is a sneer or whisper when their child cries, or “mis-behaves”. What they need from us is to be reminded of the wonder and joy that their children are. They need to be reminded of why they got into this thing called “parenting” in the first place. They need our encouragement! We need to help them enjoy their children again in any way we can!
The second emotion they often feel is the incredible weight of anxiety. They are extremely anxious about the world and about how their child is going to cope. Questions like, “how will my child do in college?”are a part of the conversation they are having in their minds even as they hold their newborn! Now, I must admit, that this was NOT a part of my parenting experience. I don’t know if I was just naïve, or over-trusting, but I really didn’t worry about the future of my children. Parents today do! And many times this anxiety bleeds into their parenting. Their children sometimes become the buckets in which their own anxiety gets worked out. This isn’t a good thing, but it is a reality. The church can help in this situation by being a “non-anxious presence” in these parents lives. We can be the calm in the middle of the storm.
The most anxious time in my life wasn’t about parenting, it was about being a pastor. The first 2 years of being a pastor were some of the most stressful times in my life. In the midst of this angst, I was invited to a pastor’s retreat. I jumped at the chance, and at the retreat I remember a friend of my Dad’s, Rod Gist, calmly placing his hand on my shoulder and saying, “Brook, it is so good to see you. I want you to know that I’ve got your back.” Those words. That reassuring hand. That calm non-anxious presence. That is what parents need from Bear Creek UMC.
And so, as we journey together in the next couple of weeks, I hope we can open our eyes as a community as to how we can bring learn how we can bring joy and peace into the lives of others.
Your friend and pastor, learning…always learning, Brook