‘I think my father doesn’t love,’ an eleven year old boy told his class mate.
This little one said this because didn’t see his parents much any day, but he saw his father least. Dad is always busy outside home working and looking to make enough money to fill the house with all the things he, the father, has determined are important yet his son would prefer just more time and less things. Clearly father and son are on different pages in reference of what is important.
Today’s reality is that one income is hard to live off and many parents are in very demanding work roles to remain afloat. Many feel they cannot change demands and schedules because money has to raised and lives have to be fuelled. So we are going to work very early to get ahead of the traffic and coming late for the same reason. I remember when I was still employed, I was up at 5am to get everything ready for the day including making lunch for the young king. I would drop him off at 7.30am and start my two hour commute to work.
I got to work tired because I have been up and on the move for 4+ hours already. I’d put in a full eight hours and leave work at 7.30pm to avoid the same traffic. I worked some weekends and got home exhausted to make dinner and black out sometimes leaving him awake alone. I was irritable because of exhaustion but the bank account was good and I could afford things that were previously out of reach. More was available but I slowly found that other sectors were suffering greatly.
The major casualty in this routine was the young king.
I tried to make it up by spending weekends together and worked hard to go out together and visit people we loved. It was the time we really bonded as mother and son and to date some people think we are too close. Yet because time was short, it had to be more than just hang out time. Every ride was a conversation, a lesson, a time to deep reflection or just jokes. We didn’t even switch on the radio and we didn’t realise that until a trip with the whole family where we kept turning the volume down to hear each other and daddy would turn it up because he is all music and we are all conversation.
So when I heard the young man question his father’s love, my heart broke.
He doesn’t understand that his father loves him and his expression is to provide a good life. He doesn’t know that there is a major cost to more time at home. On the other hand, daddy doesn’t know his son misses him so much and would rather he was home than out working. Daddy isn’t aware that the money isn’t making the big difference he thinks it is making. Daddy also doesn’t know that the ground for uncontrollable behaviour is being laid and unless something changes his son won’t grow up with his values because others will have raised the young man not him.
There is an ongoing conversation across the world about radicalisation and we keep wondering how it starts. I think the comment at the start is exactly where it starts. I know that sounds strange but hear me out. We have left and continue to leave our children exposed. We are out making money for the family to give them a lifestyle they don’t even know or need but miss out on key elements of training we need to be passing on. We are not teaching them simple skills like thinking, problem solving, pivoting, tenacity…the list is endless. We aren’t taking our children to the business and teaching them the basics. We don’t show them how we find it challenging to make ends meet and how to deal with toxic environments.
How do we expect them to survive?
Every conversation I have with a struggling young person brings me back to “6Train up a child in the way he should go, [a]And when he is old he will not depart from it.” Prov 22:6 (NKJV). Tears fill my eyes because as I raise the young king I am aware I don’t have all the answers but I have to keep learning and leaning in to God for direction. I am nothing without the wisdom that comes from above and would be lying to say any different.
I have many who call me stuck and wondering and others looking for ways to raise fees and don’t even know where to start. It was so funny when a couple of them said that they want to quit work because it was boring and repetitive. I laughed out loud but within me my heart broke and the tears fell and when I composed myself we had a discussion about it. How do I help a team of young adults who are untrained and unskilled to proceed? How do we deal with children who are insecure, lonely and rudderless because of parental absence?
It all leaves me unsettled.
I am unsettled because there are millions of young people as rudderless and unprepared for life especially the young men.
I am unsettled because unless we do something for these young people their future is bleak.
I am unsettled because if we continue to live as we are the future of our generations is at stake.
I am unsettled because we seem to be unaware that if we leave our children so unprepared we have set the stage for their radicalisation.
I am unsettled because the days of complacency are over and my Father has called me to work.
Join me as unsettled and let’s change the world around us one person, smile, touch, conversation, book and interaction at a time.
Something I at times struggle with is telling the young people around me, I didn’t have the answer they want. It really isn’t because there is no answer, rather it was because I was of a different generation and I had a different perspective and a lot of exposure. I wasn’t exposed to quick answers rather I was raised to ask myself questions until I had exhausted all options then ask for help from others. This means that I don’t have simple answers to their questions rather a classroom for all of us.
We began the journey to figure out life, ask questions, wait on God and only a few are still with me.
Why are they few? God didn’t answer in the expected time frame. He didn’t give the answer many wanted. He said wait and trust but the time lag was too long. He didn’t make sense and didn’t seem interested in making our lives easier and simpler. We asked for things and he said yes but things went in ways they didn’t want.
The questions are many and I wish I could just tell them what to do but that isn’t how to do life. If I tell them what to do all the time, when will they learn to think, pray, wait and work things out? It has been frustrating for all of us because I want to help but I know I have to hold back and they want to know but many are too conditioned to being told what to do that they don’t know how to break down a problem and dig until they find the solution.
I have shared the word, had conversations, answered questions, asked questions, but very little has changed. I repeated myself over and over, tried to live it out, shared my life and opened my home but it didn’t change a lot for them. So I began to wonder if it is me or them or both of us. Had I been unclear? Had I used language they didn’t understand? Was I too caring and loving to them? Did I protect them too much or did I gloss over things? Was I too hard and harsh? Is life too confusing? Why didn’t things change?
Then one of them reached out and we had the most inspiring conversation.
I am beginning to figure out the meaning of being intentional
And what does it mean?
Knowing what you want to achieve and working your way to it with a clear picture of the goal in mind.
And doing it all the time whether or not you feel like it
In this way nothing will ever change your course. Wow! It took me long enough to finally understand that.
You had to learn it yourself. Do you know why I don’t give you answers to all your questions but ask many questions?
So that we can figure it out by ourselves I guess?
True. Why do I want you to figure it out?
So that the lesson never leaves our minds and it makes us stronger.
Now you have it. My deepest desire is that you meet and trust God and that the lessons you learn change you forever. Take it as time to rest and meditate, seek clarity, receive inspiration and illumination then write that plan. Scripture says, “Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, That he may run who reads it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time; But at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; because it will surely come, It will not tarry. Habakkuk 2:2-3 NKJV.
Meditation is hard-like. I tried it once.
The meditation I’m talking about is deep thinking and listening with God.
That’s the same idea I had.
I am glad.
How does it go?
It is a skill you learn with practice. Let me just say it took me about a year to really get into it but everything changed when I did.
I gave up too early then?
Yes you did. Until now, you have believed that things should be easy and so when it’s hard you don’t try and just give up.
That was then, now I think I am better than giving up.
Yippee!!! Keep at it.
This conversation gave me hope that we are all growing and one day the fullness of God’s plan will unfold and we will celebrate it.
Is it possible that we are absolutely clueless about how to raise our children? Is it possible that we are passing on ideas we don’t even believe in? Is it possible that we just take in things and don’t think deeply or question them because they are how our people always did them? I really think so.
Spending time with youth and my young king has made me question very many things including basic tenets of my faith. I know not many of us will ever admit to it but a lot of what we hold to has never been explained to us.
There has to be another way.
A story is told of a mother who was making ham (not from here) and she cut off the ends before putting it into the oven. One day her daughter asked her why she does it and she said her mother always did it. The little girl went to grandma and asked why she cut off the ends and she said her mother always did it. The little girl was privileged to have her great grandmother still around and she asked her why and she explained that her mother taught her to do it. Of course they hadn’t questioned it till then but a little research led them to find the reason…the size of the pans and ovens were smaller in the past so they cut the piece to fit. The arrival of a bigger oven didn’t change the habit because no one questions the origin of the behaviour.
This morning I read an interesting piece called Malady of the 5 monkeys. In short, five monkeys were put in a cage and a banana was hang in one corner with steps leading to it. If a monkey climbed toward the banana it was sprayed with water and so were the rest. In the end, any one heading up the steps was attacked and stopped by the rest. Over time they removed the original monkeys one by one and replaced them with other and even without knowing why they always attacked whoever was going up the steps. This behaviour was so ingrained that in the end it didn’t matter that they didn’t know why they did it, they just stopped other from going up the steps no matter what.
As I spend time with young people there is a consistent question in our conversations…WHY?
Questioning things is part of growing up and I remember asking many and getting answers but as I have grown up, the answer of when I was eighteen isn’t good enough for me now in my 40’s and for my son in his teens. ‘Why?’ is a difficult question for many of us to answer because our own internal why’s were never asked or answered. We have settled for answers like our culture says so or it has always been done that way or because I said so or that is just how it is, yet we need to be honest those answers aren’t adequate and they will never be. So when the young people ask the question I have to be honest with them. Sometimes I don’t have the answer and I have to say ‘I don’t know.’
I cannot stop at ‘I don’t know,’ because that hasn’t helped anyone. So I must dig deeper and find answers or at least options to the situation. I have to find people to ask questions and books or articles to read then spend time thinking. I have to look back to gain perspective and points of reference then judge them with what I am learning and share insights with others.
I have said it before that I found it hard to look back and challenge everything. Why? It meant looking at things my parents and mentors taught me admitting some didn’t make sense. It meant seeing dysfunction in me and my family and dealing with it. It meant accepting that my people and I aren’t as perfect as we were seen or thought by those around us. It meant leaving relationships and conversations. It meant facing up to my inadequacies and admitting that I am not happy with my life. It meant accepting that this was on me and no one else. It was one of the hardest but most rewarding processes I had been through
In reality, it isn’t enough to just accept a way of living without question no matter who taught you. It isn’t enough to teach our children this is the way we do things without a background reason and expect compliance. It is unfair to expect them to accept our faith as blanket truth yet the said faith seems blind to injustice to others in the community. If we do this we set our children up for failure.
We must learn to ask questions and think though matters deeply. We must know that there are realities we will find that won’t fit our current perceptions of ourselves and they will shake us but that is part of growing. Asking questions will begin discussions that will in time change the national and global dynamic. It will ensure our faith isn’t based on just hearing charismatic speakers but also on personal prayer, meditation and devotion (Josh 1:8-9). A deliberate asking, seeking and knocking is the only way we as a people will change our lives, homes, neighbourhoods, cities, nations and the world (Matt 28:19).
139 O Lord, You have searched me and known me. 2 You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. 3 You [a]comprehend my path and my lying down, And are acquainted with all my ways. 4 For there is not a word on my tongue, But behold, O Lord, You know it altogether. 5 You have [b]hedged me behind and before, And laid Your hand upon me. 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is high, I cannot attain it.
7 Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? 8 If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in [c]hell, behold, You are there. 9 If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, 10 Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me. 11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall [d]fall on me,” Even the night shall be light about me; 12 Indeed, the darkness [e]shall not hide from You, But the night shines as the day; The darkness and the light are both alike to You.
13 For You formed my inward parts; You [f]covered me in my mother’s womb. 14 I will praise You, for [g]I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well. 15 My [h]frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them.
17 How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! 18 If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; When I awake, I am still with You.
19 Oh, that You would slay the wicked, O God! Depart from me, therefore, you [i]bloodthirsty men. 20 For they speak against You wickedly; [j]Your enemies take Your name in vain. 21 Do I not hate them, O Lord, who hate You? And do I not loathe those who rise up against You? 22 I hate them with [k]perfect hatred; I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; 24 And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.