Late spring is filled with transitions and milestones in family life. Two things are true at the same time: the graduations, concerts, recitals, championship games, report cards and other moments will bring much pleasure, pride, and sense of accomplishment. During this season also, inevitably, parents notice other emotions: anxiety, loss, sadness, and regret as goals are missed, milestones are unreached, and different paths are taken. Grieving that which never existed feels real. When our staff team attended the Sticky Faith Summits in Pasadena in 2016, the trainers addressed the room packed with eager youth pastors and offered this wise insight: “all those parents you work with? They all feel guilty most of the time.” Parents feel guilty that they’ve failed their children, haven’t done enough, have misread situations. I certainly have felt that. During seasons that bring enormous institutionalized milestones like graduations and report cards, refraining from mulling over what-ifs when there have been disappointments is about as easy as not wiggling a tooth.
You’ve heard of elevator speeches? They are the nimble, concise answers to any number of questions one may encounter. Almost every industry requires its employees to have ready answers of varying lengths. Motivational speakers urge us to develop our own. They aren’t the entirely modern invention that the name suggests. In 1 Peter 3:15 we are told to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” Parenting is no different. And in that industry? We mostly need to give these speeches to ourselves.
Each Winter, the 4th-5th-6th grades go on a retreat. We practice listening to God and developing some chops to discern truth from lies. I hear myself telling the kids on retreat elevator speeches I’ve told my own children so often they’re practically trademarked:
- Our brains are wired to believe the things they hear, so care about the things you listen to;
- Your brain believes the things you tell yourself even if they are lies;
- If you hear lies from others or even tell yourself lies, you risk your brain starting to believe them …because… brains believe the things they hear.
And on and on. Again, not new words. In Philippians we read: “…whatever is true, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
The All Angels’ Blog launched this last January; it is quickly becoming a place where stories, experiences, and events are shared. I suggest it may also be a place where truth is shared—the kind of truth that combats lies. I have a particular interest in truth related to raising up and discipling (no, that was not disciplining as my spell check always suggests) the next generation and look forward to sharing stories, experiences and insights that I hope will encourage our community.
My elevator speech to parents deep in the season of milestones and transitions, some achieved and some missed?
- These are very full days. Notice all of your experiences and reactions. We read in Luke 2: “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”
- Hillary was right… but maybe didn’t go far enough. It takes a lot more than a village, it takes a church to raise a child. We must be part of a community.
- You are not the worst parent in the world, and even if you are, which is doubtful, your child has another parent on the job: God, the Father. And He is a much better parent than any of us. Perfect even.
In fact—and today’s post is not the place for it, but I do intend to come back to this topic in a future post—it is some of those missed achievements and unreached milestones that can provide some of the most profound lessons for us and our families in our parenting journeys. So here’s one more elevator speech, for anyone reading this who is having one of those parental moments or days or even seasons of “what’s the point?”: Moses got the Israelites to the Promised Land—but only after 40 years of wandering, whining, complaining, idol worship, bacchanals and worse. Let’s take our next steps, raising children, together.
— Mary Ellen Lehmann
Mary Ellen is the Director of Children and Youth Ministries at All Angels’ Church.