When our children were young it was hard to imagine them taller than ourselves, driving a car, waking up to their own alarm clock without our knock on the bedroom door as the back up, getting to work, on-time, 5 days a week, paying rent, deciding where to live and with whom without your time, effort or approval. It’s hard to imagine them as an adult separate from yourself, living a life that is full, vibrant and apart from your care. And even harder to imagine that they would be my teacher, my mentor and a model in areas of my life. Inconceivable in the early years. Getting a daily shower was inconceivable in the earliest years. I find myself beyond the disbelief of imagining my children as adults. I am there. And what I’m finding is that I’m learning from them. They are going places in their lives I never dared or dreamed for in my own. Perhaps I was never brave enough to risk because of my own insecurities.
How often do I admit I don’t know how to do something, I need help and then ask the one person that I have alienated for that help and in so doing build a bridge of relational restoration? Watching a child, my child, my emerging adult child take that step of vulnerability, risk and humility I will not soon forget. This was a moment when I was challenged by the example I saw in my child to examine my willingness to humble myself with those I need to rebuild a bridge of relationship with. I don’t recall ever teaching or modeling this myself. In fact I have said and done things in his presence that would have led to the opposite behavior. How did he get farther than I have ever been in this arena? He is humbly leading me now.
I hear a young adult navigating their way through a world of needs, hurt, pain and sadness in the lives of those around them. Speaking words of compassion, truth and comfort into their lives. I see the tangible acts of love and care extended through simple ways of listening, remembering, including, seeing the dignity in the most needy all around them. Where did she learn that? I was quick to dodge and ignore the needy, for fear of my safety, for fear of her safety, for a host of selfish reasons. She was there to watch and observe those things in me. And yet she’s taking a different path. Stopping to listen and engage the stranger, including the weak and frail. How did she get farther than I have ever been in seeing, really seeing, others? She is teaching grace and compassion to me now.
Each week they are hosting coffees, deserts, dinners, bbq’s, impromptu gatherings of the newly formed relationships in their home. They are practicing a way of life that includes others, generous with their time and resources and willing to continue to expand their relational circle beyond the familiar and comfortable. Their home is a bright spot on their street, where others come uninvited to join in, and they are welcomed. Where did she learn that? The home she grew up in did not feel this way, though now I wish it had and did. The standard she sets is high, maybe more than I can see for myself. She gently coaches me with her encouragement, experience and wisdom. She is modeling generous hospitality to me now.
Our children come to us as babies and we teach them everything. How to eat, walk, play nice, clean up, read, spell, work hard, forgive, speak truth, be honest. As a parent when I was caught in the day to day of teaching, leading and coaching them it was hard to imagine that they would someday out pace where I was. But they are. I wish I had known then that perhaps all my shortcomings would not “ruin them”. I wish I had rested in knowing they were not destined to be limited by my own limitations. I wish I had known then to be easier on myself and my expectations for them and for me. But I am learning now. From them.
A friend wrote this song for his son who graduated from high school this year. When I heard him sing it I thought of the places that I have met my children off the beaten highway these past few months. Those places have not been without their difficulties and pain, but perhaps that’s exactly what has taken them to these new places beyond where I had mentored, taught and led them. Grateful that now, it seems we journey together.
Off The Beaten Highway
People say you can’t expect to stay innocent
Everyone’s got to play the game
People say that truth will be a casualty, but then
People say a lot of things
Off the beaten highway
That’s where adventure lies
Where purpose takes the high road and dreams take flight
Where grace and mercy thrive
No matter what this world may say
I hope I’ll see you out there
Off the beaten highway
You might hear the call to live life for yourself
And I won’t lie, it’s got a certain ring
You might hear that God is dead, we’re all alone, but then
You might hear the brush of angel’s wings
Off the beaten highway…
You’re standing at a crossroad
Won’t be the last one that you face
Say a prayer and listen
I believe there is a plan for your life
That keeps the wonder in your eyes
I believe you can be both great and kind
These are treasures that will guide you…
Off the beaten highway…
words/music by Christopher Ames/Mark Cable