Rite of passage parenting: Just say no
I pulled up to the church and sat in my patched pickup. I called it “patched” because awhile back, someone stole the tailgate from my all-black truck. After a year and a half, I found a slightly rusted, slightly scratched, all-white tailgate to replace the stolen one. If you follow me down the road, you may notice that the rear end of my truck looks like an Oreo cookie.
There I sat in my mostly all-black truck, listening to some soft worship music and watching the world go by from the safety of its enclosure. I found myself in no hurry to get out. In fact, some days I don’t want to get out at all. I covet the solitude and enjoy watching the people scurry about all at the same time.
It’s a rare day—no, make that a rare 30 minutes—when I’m not engaged with another human being. And then there’s my wife and her honey-do list. I’ve been working on that list for 38 years. You’d think in all that time, I would have made some kind of dent in it. But when I finish one task, another one magically appears. And if my wife doesn’t require my help, my children need some attention from their father. Add in the demands of ministry and someone’s always knocking at my door. I wish sometimes I could remove that door and replace it with a wall, but I know that wouldn’t be right. God has called and equipped me to be involved in the lives of other people.
Sometimes, these people just want you to walk alongside them. It gives them peace. Sometimes they want you to hold their hands. It gives them strength. Sometimes they want you to give them direction. It gives them hope. And others want you to help them pick up the pieces of a shattered life. It renews their spirits.
You can’t do that kind of work with a shield around you. You have to allow people access to your life. Sometimes, they wipe the mud off their shoes and onto your heart. But that’s what Jesus ministry is: walking out His life in a broken world.
Sitting inside the cab of my truck, I have no demands on my time, my resources, my brain or my life. I can sit and sip on a cup of coffee as I let the music take me to another place. Often, when I reach this Zen-like state, a conversation arises between the Lord and me. Most often, it’s a one-sided conversation because He knows I’m talked out.
During these moments, the Lord reassures me that the Holy Trinity hasn’t called an emergency meeting over my life. Everything is in His hands and happens according to His purposes. If I start to complain about the heavy load I carry, He reminds me to cast all my cares upon Him (1 Peter 5:7).
Sometimes, I feel guilty when I walk away from the world. But my wife keeps reminding me that the world has only one Savior, and it’s not me. In these quiet moments, the Lord lets me know it’s all right to get away.
I admire the life of Christ. He’s taught me many things, but one of His qualities is still missing from my life: His ability to routinely walk away from the world: “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where He prayed” (Mark 1:35). Jesus found His solitude not only in a place but also in a person, His heavenly Father.
I’ve heard mothers with young children say they need a little “me time.” I think we all need some of that. Jesus gives you permission to say no to the world, to walk away from life’s hustle and bustle and into a place of peace. This year, try following His example and going off to a solitary place. It might be a room in your home, a place you like to go or even the cab of a patched pickup. We all need to find that place where we can be refreshed. That’s the place where we can hear Him.
I still didn’t want to get out of my truck, but after my time with Jesus, I felt better about handling the challenges of the day. It won’t be long until I need to return to that place, Jesus’ place, a place of rest. Why don’t you start out this new year by giving yourself permission to say no to the world?
I’d invite you into the cab of my pickup, but you’d ruin the solitude.