By Andy Braner
I was working in the yard yesterday thinking about my last week traveling to speak to various teenage groups and parent meetings. For some reason, as I spread the fertilizer through the cool green grass emerging from its winter slumber I started thinking about the ‘why’s’ of what I heard last week. From the kids who feel Alone to the parents who just want to prepare their kids for the real world, I wondered if we’ve embraced an idyllic culture.
So often idols represent things that cause us to pause and take inventory of what we’re focused on in our daily world. Even in the spiritual domain, one of God’s first commandments was to tell the people, “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3-4) And we hear sermons and podcasts talking about money, pride, ego, materialism, and other cultural issues. But does anyone ever wonder if we’ve created a ‘kid-centric’ idyllic culture?
It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t take care of our kids, prepare them for adulthood, or ‘train them up in the way they should go,’ but thinking about some of the issues I was dealing with last week, I think we might be able to take a deeper look into the world of idolizing our children.
Idols are often shiny
As I’ve traveled the globe, I’ve seen a lot of idols. Whether it’s a temple in Southeast Asia, The Churches in Jerusalem, or the Business Centers of Industrialized countries, idols always have a shiny new sheen to them. They catch our eye, and demand we look at them for long periods of time in a deeply felt appreciation.
Across our country, I’ve seen the temples built to kids. In athletics, they have banners raised to the ceiling. In academics they have awards with larger than life photos. In social life they have the newest gadgets to show off. In fashion they wear the newest clothes.
None of these things are bad in and of themselves, but when the idol becomes more shiny than the person behind the award, we risk our energy and attention on making our idols shinier instead of paying attention to the person behind the achievement. Sometimes I wonder if we’ve put too much energy into living vicariously through our kids at the sacrifice of truly knowing who they are and what they want to be in life.
Idols become the center of our lives
I was talking with a father last week who was just worn out. He works 60-80 hours a week to provide for his family. He lives in a high-end neighborhood. He drives a nice car. He gives his family everything they ever want or need. “Andy, I find myself living my life so my kids can have everything I didn’t have.”
I get it. We all want to be the hero for our children, making sure they don’t get laughed at when they go to school dressed in ‘out of fashion clothes.’ Today, it’s important that kids have cell phones, and its important they have the latest tools to communicate to friends across social media. When they get to the latter years of high school, they want to be accepted and attend brand name Universities with high price tags, so we do whatever it takes to prepare them to succeed.
And this particular Dad was just venting a bit about the energy it took to keep all the plates spinning for his kids. “Everything I do, I do it for them, do you think they get that?”
And then I started wondering about how family works. I know some families who don’t have two nickels to rub together, but they know each other. They spend time together. They want the same things this particular father was providing for his kids, but they have something unique to their family unit that he didn’t necessarily have. He wants those things, but the way he’s chosen to live his life was about providing the best “stuff” while forgetting his kid just wants to know him.
We need to be careful when we idolize our kids. Every choice in life is a decision to gain something and sacrifice another. As I was thinking yesterday in the yard, I wondered if I’ve chosen to sacrifice the ‘knowing’ of my kids.
Idols are often Empty Shells
Every idol I’ve ever seen is an empty shell of remembrance. It doesn’t provide life, it only points to a life somewhere far away.
I was trying to come up with a good answer for the dad who asks, “do you think they get that?” And I wonder if we could look at our kids as whole people, instead of projects, jobs, or positions to be achieved.
Can we see each teenager as a gift from God? Can we spend our attention on knowing and learning who they are and what they want to accomplish? Would we be satisfied with our kids if they didn’t achieve all the things we thought they needed to?
I certainly don’t want to imply that we should lower the bar of achievement for our kids. But I do want to stoke the conversation concerning a culture that seems so intent on achievement that we forget to allow our teens to grow up and become well-healed adults.
Maybe I just sniffed too much fertilizer yesterday, but I thought it worth writing. What do you think?