Rite of passage parenting: A postcard view
When I was growing up, we didn’t consider ourselves poor. My family always thought the poor side of the community began with the house next door. But even though we never had much money, we valued summer vacations. For the Moore boys, vacation consisted of one of two things: going on a road trip with our parents or staying at our grandparents.’ And I’m still not sure which I loved more.
My grandparents lived on a farm only an hour from our home, but to me, it might as well have been in another country. I loved visiting their place, where a young city boy could find plenty of adventure: driving a tractor, chasing cows, climbing haystacks and fishing in the pond . . . and all before lunch.
Most of our family road trips had to do with mountains, whether in Colorado, Montana or New Mexico. You could almost bet that when we pitched our tent, we’d either be sliding into our sleeping bags or sliding out.
My wife and I just returned from a little time away. We spent the first part of our vacation in a cabin near Hochatown and then visited our oldest son and his wife in Dallas. At one point, we’d spent an hour and a half driving through the back roads of America. Our gas gauge was getting low when we happened upon what we’ve always called a one stop sign town, except this one was missing the stop sign. There we found a two-pump gas station with a couple of cars in line.
My wife had gone into the station to get a cup of coffee when in walked a rancher with two small children. The kids were running up and down the aisles looking at everything on the racks. Picking up item after item, they kept asking their dad, “Can we get this?”
Turning to my wife, the man said, “Excuse my children, they don’t get to town much.” She broke out in a smile, first because he referred to this wide spot in the road as a town, and second because his children didn’t get to visit this high point of civilization too often.
I understood how this man felt. Twice, I’ve had the privilege of going to Israel. On my first trip, I took in so many biblical sites that I still refer to it as my “I Ran Where Jesus Walked Tour.” One day, the tour guide announced that we were leaving Jerusalem the next morning and heading to Bethlehem. I couldn’t wait to visit the city where our Savior was born. After all, I knew a lot about Bethlehem. Every year during the Christmas season, we sang about this special place. Every picture in our Sunday School quarterlies showed the desert with a small village in the distance, a huge star hovering above the manger where Jesus lay. So, from all my experience in Vacation Bible School, Sunday School, Church Training, church camp and Royal Ambassadors, I knew I had a long journey ahead. Anticipating the drive, I began to assemble assorted snacks, drinks and sandwiches. I didn’t want to be caught out in the desert with no provisions. Just to be on the safe side, I also packed a couple of books.
The next morning, the bus showed up and a handful of eager tourists clambered aboard. I sat on the front seat to make sure I got one of the first views of the famous little town. I went through my backpack to make sure I had all my provisions. The bus driver closed the door and we set off—down a long hill, up another one and down. After another five minutes, the driver pulled over and opened the door.
I was waiting to hear that something was wrong with the bus when the tour guide announced, “Welcome to Bethlehem!” I was stunned. There I sat with all my supplies, and the journey was already over.
Later, I learned that the distance from our hotel to Bethlehem was four miles. From downtown Jerusalem to downtown Bethlehem was a whopping five and two-tenths miles. Throughout my time in the Holy Land, my mind kept adjusting from the postcard concept of the Bible to the truth. This kid doesn’t get to town much.
Many children who grow up in church embrace a postcard concept of the Bible, Jesus and the church. As parents, we have the job of guiding them into the realities of following Christ. Through instruction and example, we must teach them how to deny themselves, take up the cross and follow Him.
When your kids get ready for this journey called life, make sure they’re properly equipped. You don’t want anyone to have a reason to say, “This kid doesn’t get to town much.”