Entitlement + Teens

It’s been just over a week since our boy came back from his missions trip. A week since he travelled across oceans wide to serve in the rough communities of rural Ireland.

While he was away he was run ragged in the best possible way, rising early and going non-stop until pillows beckoned and eyes could stay open no longer.

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While he was away he served with his hands and his feet and his voice in ways that I can’t even count. There was tangible help to elderly, there were races against arrogant children taunting that they could totally beat him, there were choices about simply being a mature teen and staying calm and cool when the locals words made him turn a deep shade of red.

What we wish for our kids when they come back from something like this is that it would continue. That they’d come home and wake up the next morning and ask how they can get involved in their local community. That they’d rise early and make breakfast joyfully for their brothers because they’ve learned that sometimes that’s what serving looks like. That they’d quickly sign up for all of the church groups that are heading out to do great things and they’d rally the troops for family prayer because they don’t know how they’ll get through their day without it.

That’s what we WANT to happen. Of course, it’s not what DOES happen.

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Instead they come home weary and they crawl into their beds and in the morning there are cupboards filled to the brim with their favourite breakfast foods because that’s how we welcome them home. It’s how we want him to feel our love. With stuff. With comfort. With ease. I mean, serving was so hard – but your home now, little one. Come rest and eat some Corn Pops.

And they’re tired because jet lag is a real thing and so we let them laze around for a few days and during that time they reconnect on instagram with all of their friends and they watch a few movies and grab the playstation remotes and we tell them it’s okay, because they’ve worked hard. They’ve done a good thing.

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But all too quickly we’re feeding them a reward program for service and it looks something like being a sloth. Our actions are very clearly depicting that when you do something hard over there, across the world, it’s so nice to be back here in a sterile home with every comfort you could possibly want. You deserve it. Have another pillow. Well done.

Our souls have been restless this past week and we knew that this wasn’t how we wanted to do it. We’ve always taught our kids that being a missionary isn’t for the select few that head across the ocean but it is for all of us. If we are Christ-followers then we are called to make disciples wherever we are, not just the moments we choose, not just the times we head off and feel ready but every moment of every day.

As parents we understand so deeply the difference between telling our children something with our mouths and reinforcing it with our very lives. It’s so easy to tell our kids that missions happens right here. It’s way harder to pick up our cross and show them that it’s true.

By the very words of scripture we know that Jesus did not come to this earth to be served but to serve. But with our very words we’re showing our kids exactly the opposite. We ask things like, “What do you want to do today?” or “You’re bored? What would make you happy?” and we go on to do those very things.

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You want to go to the beach? Let’s go! You want a restful day at home? Done. You want spaghetti for dinner? Here you are! You’re annoyed by your brother? Maybe take some quiet time to regroup by yourself. Maybe put your headphones on so you don’t have to be annoyed. Maybe build a barrier because you don’t deserve to be annoyed. You deserve to be happy. And if it doesn’t make you happy – I know, that person is hard to love, they’re tiring to you, they’re so needy, they make you crazy? Probably you need some boundaries. Don’t let them wear you down. That’s not okay. YOU figure out what YOU need and YOU make sure that noone gets in the ways of YOU!

The words bring on waves of nausea and hurt the deepest part of my head. The disconnect causes turmoil in my heart and tension on every side of figuring out how we’re supposed to live and I think that it’s exactly how it should be.

I never want to feel overly comfortable; finding unending rest  and constant ease in life, I want to wrestle with which way to turn next. Sure, we can find rest in our homes and shut out the needy in the world. It’s easy. Close the door, turn on the tv and eat a bag of chips. We can even take a photo of the moment and broadcast to the world that God has given us so much joy and rest in this season. #blessed

But I can’t help but question if this is really the good life? Is this what we were made for? Jesus tells us the exact opposite but we’re struggling to find the words and actions to show our kids that this is true. Because netflix and popcorn sounds pretty great to them.

We changed our words over the weekend. We gathered the kids around and made it clear that our vocabulary was changing and for good reason. We’re breeding self-absorbed, entitled teens and we don’t like it, want it, and even more it’s not what we’ve been told to teach them. We haven’t been told to give our kids a life of ease and safety and comfort. We haven’t been told that showering them with everything they’ve ever wanted is the way to go. We’ve been given the example of Jesus life and He washed feet, while we play Halo and drink lemonade.

Our vocabulary change was simple. We made the choice, as parents, to change our sentence. No longer was our first mode of thought each day going to be, “What do you want to do today?” but rather, “How can you serve someone today?”

It’s small. It’s just a few words difference. But the entire meaning of how that changes our days is huge!

How can you serve? Here, in our city. Here, in our home. Here, in this country of privilege. Here, in your school where it feels like everyone already has more than you. Here. The place that we’ve been given. The place that God has planted us for now.

We want a paradigm shift and I may be bold in thinking it can happen but I really do. Change a few words, plead with God, feel the tension between the gifts we’ve been given and our self-absorbed nature and focus on what He focused on when He was here on earth.

Serve. There are a thousand ways but that’s another post altogether.

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