RITE OF PASSAGE: Little Boy, Big Hero
Like you, I was captivated by the excitement of the Beijing Olympics. I’m not a dyed-in-the-wool sports fan. I know many of you men enjoy any kind of sport. You watch game after game and enjoy sitting around with your men-friends to analyze the latest accomplishments on the field. The only sports I like are skydiving, scuba diving and any other activity where you can fall out of something and let gravity do the work.
I’m not against team sports. They’ve just never caught my fancy, except for the Dallas Cowboys or a team involving . . . my sons.
This year’s Olympic Games, however, meant something special to my wife and me. Just after the Tienneman Square uprising, the Chinese government asked us to go to China and work with the Vice President of the Communist Party. Cathy and I, along with a select group of other Americans, were invited to serve with the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) in China. This is the “Protestant” division of China’s Communist government and controls the churches there.
For three weeks, Cathy and I traveled across China, meeting with religious leaders, teaching in seminarie and encouraging believers. We learned God is mightily at work in China. For a number of years, we have followed the transition of this nation from the old to the new. Watching the opening ceremony brought back fond memories of our time there.
As a missionary, I have a heart that beats for many countries. I was excited to see the Hungarians marching in because of all the churches with whom we have worked in that country, along with the Panamanians, the Chileans, the Peruvians, the Ugandans . . . on and on it went. I prayed for each nation as its team came across our TV screen, and I wanted to see every one of the 37 countries with which we have had a relationship enter the arena. The Chinese were last, so I had to keep watching until the end. When that final group of athletes crossed the threshold, you could hear the roar of national pride. 7’6″ professional basketball player Lao Ming led the way, carrying the Chinese flag. Walking beside him was 9-year-old Lin Hao, waving a much smaller Chinese flag.
Of all the stories that emerged from the Olympics, Lin Hao’s has most captured my heart. On May 12, a massive earthquake (7.9 on the Richter scale) hit the Sichuan province in China and killed more than 70,000 people. Before the earthquake, Lin Hao sat in his classroom, one of 32 students in his school. When the quake struck, the entire building collapsed. Although Lin Hao managed to free himself, he went back into the pile of rubble to pull two classmates to safety. While he and the nine surviving students waited, he led them to sing songs until help came their way. When asked why he risked his life to save others, he said, “I was the hall monitor. It was my job to look after my classmates.”
Every child needs a “significant task,” a special assignment that demonstrates an individual’s worth to the people he considers important. Lin Hao told the world he was a person of significance because he was the hall monitor. His task was essential, and if he did not perform it, others would suffer. The tasks we give our children today carry little more significance than taking out the trash or making the bed. Important, but not significant. That’s why I now refer to them as pseudo-significant tasks.
Lin Hao’s story reminds me of another story about a young man who suddenly disappeared. After three days of searching, his parents found him sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening and asking them questions. When they questioned him about his disappearance, he said simply, “I had to be about my Father’s business.” (Luke 2:49)
At 12 years old, Jesus already had a purpose, a significant task that gave him value. He did what he did because He knew who He was. In the same way, Lin Hao did what he did because he knew who he was: the hall monitor. Modern-day society has stripped our children of their significant tasks. Isn’t it time we not only gave them something worth living for, but something worth dying for, too?
Heavenly Father, I know I derive my worth from the significant tasks you give me. Teach me to give my children tasks that increase in significance. Help each of us find our value in the things that matter most . . . to You.