Yeah, it can happen. And, it can be irritating. Sometimes downright scary.
I mean, you plan and you pray and you work toward the goal of raising competent educated kids who know how to take care of themselves.
But some go just a bit too far. They take all that “follow Jesus” stuff we spout every Sunday and they just do it. You, know, follow Jesus.
How does a parent handle kids who suddenly want to heal the sick, feed the hungry and/or preach the gospel to a lost and dying world?
- Talk sense into your kid. Use phrases like “let’s be practical” and “you know, you can take things just a bit too far”. It’s true, you can take things too far. You can live so radically for Jesus that your focus slips right out of the temporal realm and into eternity. When a kid starts pointing out life is too short, you best stop them in their tracks. That is YOUR line. They are supposed to be the ones who play around like there is no tomorrow. Don’t let them make decisions based on the remote possibility that you really truly mean it when you sing praise songs about “laying down your life”, “all I need is you, Lord” and “Take my life and let it be consecrated Lord to Thee”. What you really need to do is just smile, pat your kid on the back and tell the kid to dial down all this crazy talk. If you are really desperate to save your child, throw in the story of those fishermen who wanted to follow Jesus. They left their jobs. Families. And just free-wheeled it all over the countryside for three years listening to Jesus. And, how did that work out? Jesus left. They suffered. And to think they could have still been working at their fishing jobs.
- Get tough and maybe throw in a little shaming. Maybe it’s time to let your starry-eyed kid know that he or she better get it all together in the name of money, obligation and all things tradition. Use the phrase “this is how we do it” over and over again until you finally drown out any silly nudges of conscience and Holy Spirit whispers. Just get in there and chart their course for them if they can’t come up with something “normal” to work toward themselves. As for the shaming, never let them forget how much money cousin Edith is making or what Uncle Harold did with his life after he finally got all spiritual angst out of his system. Let them know the ramifications of extreme discipleship. How will the family survive without their smiling face around 24/7 if they go off to save the world? Did they think they were just going to grow up and live their own lives for God? Not! They still belong to you and they will live for Jesus just the way YOU you want them too. End of discussion.
- Contribute nothing, just stand there and watch the train wreak happen. Just stop and stare while your kid struggles to make meaning out of the calling he may feel he has on his life. Don’t listen, pray or challenge her when in the midst of a spiritual awakening she still acts disrespectful or irresponsible in practical areas like helping out at home or asking before she uses the family car. Figure that if a kid wants to follow God so radically then that kid is declaring that he or she is perfect. So, you can secretly judge the snot out of them and still look good. What a way to ditch the headache of parenting!
- Go ahead and live out what you say you believe. I know, pretty radical. But, then, really what is a parent to do? After years of spouting rhetoric we can give it a try in our own lives. I’d like to say that no one dies from honestly following Jesus, but that wouldn’t be very honest. It’s tough to live counter-culturally. It’s even tougher when your own family doesn’t understand. Nurture your soul-seeking child like any other kid. Have boundaries, demand respect, and give respect to what God is doing in your child’s life.
Bottom line – Life is short. Eternity is forever. Maybe, just maybe, our parenting style should reflect that incredible truth.