RITE OF PASSAGE: Parenting GPS
Every once in a while, an invention comes along that finds application in nearly every area of life. Velcro is like that-you see it all over. Recently, GPS (“Global Positioning System”) units have begun to appear everywhere you turn. Many of the latest-model cars have GPS installed as dashboard navigation devices. The other day, a man in his 70s picked me up from the St. Louis airport. He had a new GPS and wanted to show me how it worked. He typed in his home address, and a feminine voice immediately prompted, “Go straight; take the next left onto Airport Boulevard.” For the next 30 minutes, I listened to this box give him directions. Suddenly, “Watch this,” he said. When the GPS told him to turn left, he turned right. The voice began to announce, “Recalculating, recalculating.” The dashboard screen soon showed him a new route, designed to get his vehicle back on track. Smiling, the man said, “I call her my second wife. She is always telling me where to go and how to get there.”
This morning, our paper carried an article about a new golf course opening nearby. It touted an important feature: GPS-equipped golf carts. I began to wonder: has there been an epidemic of lost golfers? Nearly every day, I read the paper front to back. I have never seen one article about a lost golfer. In fact, if you need GPS to navigate from Hole One to Hole Two, you should seriously consider giving up . . . golf.
Not long ago, I received a flyer advertising bicycles equipped with . . . (you guessed it) GPS. We must have another problem: children who ride their bicycles so fast and far they can’t find their way home. I have decided to change my newspaper subscription. Mine seems to leave out these articles.
What will they advertise next? “Come to our retirement center. All our walkers are equipped with GPS.” Don’t laugh. I bet someone is already working on this.
Today, I am thankful we have been given a GPS: a God Positioning System. According to Jeremiah 6:16, “‘This is what the LORD says, Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.'” When God pronounced His creation “good,” He was speaking beyond the immediate context. His words pointed to the entire scope of His work, the “ancient path” placed within every aspect of His creation. In the animal kingdom, we call this “instinct.” For example: no one teaches geese to fly south for the winter. The hundreds of squirrels who visit my backyard every year don’t have to be taught to bury their nuts. Each of these animals is following the ancient path, the pattern God has designed.
God has also placed his ancient paths within mankind. Living and working in remote locations across the world, I began to notice a similarity between the various people groups I encountered. Each one of them provides its children with a rite of passage: a clearly defined line that distinguishes childhood from adulthood. In fact, every tribe provides a specific way to mark maturity. I began to wonder why people on opposite sides of the world followed the exact same process in raising their children. As I studied and prayed, God showed me this was part of His ancient path-the original design He instilled within mankind.
Every little boy or girl is born with an ancient path that says, “I want to grow up.” Little girls love to put on Mommy’s hat or tromp around in high heels. Long before they’re tall enough to reach the lawnmower handles, little boys want to help their dads cut the grass. We all want to grow up.
Or do we? Although God put this longing to grow up into every child’s heart, He only intended it to last for a short season. Because our culture has ignored this ancient path, we are now producing “adult adolescents”-30-year-olds who still live in their childhood bedrooms and expect their parents to pay the bills. Somehow, they have failed to reach responsible adulthood.
Mom and dad: it’s not your fault. I believe our culture encourages us to raise . . . children. The truth is that we give birth to . . . children, but God wants us to raise capable, responsible, self-reliant . . . adults. He has given us His GPS. If we don’t listen, we won’t walk in the good way, and we won’t find rest for our souls.
If God’s GPS had a verbal component, I think it would be saying, “Recalculate, recalculate.”