It was one of those nights on the Canadian prairies. The violent thunderclaps, flashing lightning and gale force winds had brought us to this place – hiding in the basement. Why the basement? My mother had a profound fear of thunderstorms and the further she could get from the noise and tumult of the storm, the safer she felt. So my mother, my sister, and I headed underground. But that night my 12-year-old mind began to question why? Was it my own fears or my mother’s that drove me to the basement? I realized that I had been taught to be afraid and that, in fact, I rather enjoyed watching the light show the heavens were providing. That night I went upstairs and never retreated to the basement again.
In what ways do we teach our children to fear? We naturally want our children to be safe and have a healthy fear of some things, but when do reasonable precautions become hindrances to fully enjoying and experiencing life? We live in a culture of hyper-safety and fear. It is a world of litigation, caution signs, and ever more rules and restrictions designed to keep ourselves and our children “safe”. We can be so afraid to do the wrong thing or face any discomfort and pain that we do nothing. We play it safe.
When Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be My disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23), He indicated that He was not going to safe places. He was going to places that might be uncomfortable, unfamiliar, and dangerous – even to the point of death – even death on a cross.
Those words are as difficult to hear today as they were then. Does our playing it safe extend to following Jesus as well? Can our desire to protect override our desire to obey? I am certainly not advocating reckless spiritual thrill seeking, but perhaps it is time to rethink some of our choices. No parent wants their children to suffer or to be put in harm’s way, but we can so carefully control their lives to minimize risk of danger that we push faith out. Following Jesus requires knowledge of God and where He is going. Where would Jesus go? Where is He leading you? Where is He asking you and your children to trust Him?
In the church I grew up in, we were encouraged to follow Jesus even if it led to uncomfortable places. As teenagers we would travel several miles to small prairie towns on cold winter nights. We went to lead Bible studies for teens at mission churches. No adult accompanied us nor were there cell phones then. Was it risky? Perhaps, but we depended on God and experienced Him showing up. When cars broke down and all we could do was pray that He would send someone to help, He did – and our faith grew.
Allowing teens and children to step out and do what they believe God is calling them to, even with risk and uncertainty, builds faith. My teenage friend, Mallory, is currently in Haiti trekking to villages out of the reach of modern communication, risking Chikungunya Fever, working in uncomfortable conditions at a medical clinic, because this is where Jesus is leading her. Her parents pray, her parents trust, and her parents let her follow Jesus.
Perhaps it is time to ask ourselves where we have we hesitated, held back, and hindered our children from following God in order to be safe.