By Brian Shultz
Watch Out…New Driver!
If only driving, and life, were easy…
I just got out of the car, this time from the unfamiliar passenger side, as my teenage son just completed his first ever driving lesson with me, just minutes after passing his written test and getting his permit at the DMV. All he had to do to pass the test was to not miss more than 5 questions of the 25, and he only missed 1 (Fist pump!).
The wait in line was much harder than the actual test, and to his credit, he said, “That was way too easy, Dad. They should make it harder, because I don’t want to be on the road with people who are missing 4 or 5 of the questions!”
I agreed with him, while I thought to myself, “I don’t really want to be on the road while YOU are driving, because a test means nothing, and you have so much to learn,” but I refrained.
The First Lesson
Now, fast forward an hour later, and I’m handing him the keys to the “war wagon”, our rusted-out 2005 Chevy Suburban, parked uphill in the slanted driveway, just a foot or two from the garage door.
“Son, did you check behind the car to make sure no bikes, skateboards, (or small children) are on the ground. If not, get out and check!”
“Alright, now make sure you and all the passengers are buckled and adjust your seat and mirrors…and start the car.”
“Now release the parking brake, and oh, before you put it in gear, make sure you have your foot on the brake pedal.” “Oh, and one more thing, Son, you’ve got to think of this car as a weapon. You can really hurt someone with it, if you don’t use it properly.”
Sensing he was getting overwhelmed, I decided to say no more at that moment, so thankfully, I noticed he put it in DRIVE instead of REVERSE, or we would have been replacing a garage door for the rest of our Spring Break.
A (Scary) Reality Sets In
And then, after a short chuckle together of what could have been, it hit me. Before ever leaving the driveway, or the neighborhood, I have to somehow take everything I’ve ever learned about driving and begin to teach it to Ben, and FAST!
The car parked across the street behind us was in danger; the Korean Grandma passing down the sidewalk behind us, pushing a stroller – she was in play…and what about the dangerous blind curve at the first stop sign down the street?
I would also have to teach him how to navigate the turn signals and when; how to accelerate, and steer, and brake smoothly (I think I still have a little whiplash); how to look for potential dangers ahead of him; how to read the mirrors and how often; how to avoid debris in the road without hitting the parked cars or the oncoming traffic – how do you even begin communicating all that?
I finally settled on, “Son, just try to use common sense… Look to protect other people and their property, and then look to protect yourself!“ And, on and on I went as he drove, imparting truths, reminders, warnings, and encouragements. After all, I had just signed documents at the DMV stating I was financially responsible for any damages he would incur as a driver until he was 18.
30 minutes later, we were back safe and sound in the driveway, a little crooked, but nonetheless safe, never having ventured more than a mile from the house. After a few relaxation breaths, I thought to myself, “Wow, that was decent, but we have such a looooong way to go!”
Spiritual Driving Lessons
And, so it is with parenting, in this spiritual journey through life that our kids are on. There are so many truths, warnings, reminders, and encouragements to pass on, and just like we would never dream of tossing the keys to our family car to our teenager after merely passing a written test, without first preparing them with multiple ride-alongs, nor should we launch them into the various stages of life without first preparing them both practically and spiritually. The task is important, and monumental, and it certainly does not stop when they are teenagers.
Just think about the first time you took your toddler to the grocery store. Remember how they pulled and tugged on your hand in the parking lot, trying to get away from you and exercise their independence? As a parent, you know the dangers of getting run over that they don’t understand yet, and so it is actually more loving to force them to hold your hand while you try to teach them about the dangers of parking lots than it would be to let them have what they want and run unprotected through the lot.
Here at FamiliesAlive, we believe strongly that Job #1 for parents is not only to equip them for practical things like parking lots and driving lessons, but also for the spiritual matters of life.
Where Do I Start?
It’s important to remember that different stages of life require different messages.
We’ve found that the early years should be full of the foundational teachings about who God is, the world He created, and why we can trust Him. We should be telling our kids of the great stories of the Old Testament and illustrating to them about the concepts of respect, obedience, honor, faith, and the narrative of grace that runs through it all and points to Christ. It is never too early to talk about Jesus’ love for us, our sin, and our need of a Savior.
As our kids hit the pre-teen years, the Psalms and Proverbs are great reminders of the concepts we’ve already taught them in the early years.
In the middle and later years of youth, often marked by drift and apathy, should actually be a time when our kids are putting down deeper spiritual roots to help them withstand the droughts that can be high school and college. Staying connected to the life and teachings of Jesus, digging deeper into the teachings of Paul, and the other New Testament writers can help serve that purpose at these times.
Don’t get me wrong – God is not bound by time, and so there’s no perfect time and formula for when and how to guide and teach in these spiritual matters. We also can rejoice, knowing that He fills in the gaps where you and I fall short!
But neglecting to teach our children all these important truths would be like handing the keys to the car to your teen without any instruction. You have a lifetime of spiritual lessons learned that need to be imparted, and every one of them is just as important as “Red means Stop, and Green means Go”.
About the Author
Brian is the Director of Development of FamiliesAlive. He is the father of 6 and currently teaching child #4 how to drive. He teaches and coaches at Valor Christian High School in Highlands Ranch, CO, and uses his positions to teach kids about God on the field, in the classroom, and at home. Specifically, he is passionate about preparing Christian teens for the challenges of college.