Have you ever conducted a seminary course that meets in a garage or convened a theology class in a sandbox? Have you ever held cathedral-like worship in your kids' hideout or taught a Sunday school class in the kitchen while dinner was being prepared? I have. Each situation with our children represents a divinely-ordered "teachable moment."
One morning I was pulling out of our garage on the way to the airport when my then preteen daughter, Ashley, rushed out to give me just one more hug. I could tell something was troubling her.
Reaching out through the car window to hold her hand, I asked, "What's wrong, Princess?"
"I'm afraid your airplane is going to crash," she said, looking down, a bit embarrassed by her admission. A recent airplane crash in Dallas had sent unsettling shock waves of fear through my daughter that were just now beginning to appear. It was one of those teachable moments, too valuable to squander by rushing off.
"Planes are safer than driving, Ashley. Besides, my life is in God's hands and He knows what He's doing," I attempted to assure her.
By now, my tenderhearted young daughter was clutching my hand in both of hers and I could see that my theological lesson had fallen short of its mark. The pain of her fear was visible on her young face.
I went on, "Princess, fear is a normal emotion to experience for a young lady who is growing up. And what you need to learn is what to do with your fear once you experience it."
I paused, then continued, "I won't always be here to answer your questions, your concerns, and relieve all your fears. What I do need to do is to share with you how to deal with your fears—how to take your fears to Jesus Christ—He's here right now, and He always will be." Gently, I added, "You're in the process of learning how to depend less upon me and more upon Him—He won't disappoint you."
"Ashley," I said, "it's like there are all these invisible electrical cords coming from you to me and your mom. And our responsibility as your parents is to unplug those cords from us and teach you how to plug them into God. We've got to continue the process of helping you become independent from us and dependent upon Jesus Christ."
I then took one of her hands and gently "unplugged" one of those invisible strands from me. She frowned and then grinned as I guided her hand above her head and helped her visualize plugging into God. "Ashley, I need to get to the airport and you're going to have to take your fear to Jesus Christ. He can give you the peace."
As I pulled out of the driveway, I waved at Ashley and she grinned back. My little girl was becoming a young lady, and I knew it was my responsibility to help her grow in her experience of depending upon Christ, especially given the fact that the culture she was growing up in didn't have many moorings.
A teachable child will attend an impromptu seminary class—even in a garage at 7 a.m. or a study at 9 p.m. When those times come, it's important to step up and seize the moment. This means: 1) being on the lookout constantly; 2) taking the time to stop; 3) listening carefully to what is said (or not said); 4) gently sharing the truth; and 5) putting the bookends of a loving relationship around your child as you teach.
"I'm afraid some robbers are going to get me"
Not many days after my garage encounter with Ashley, I had the privilege of seizing another teachable moment when it presented itself in the form of my then 10-year-old son Benjamin.
It was evening and I was sitting in front of my computer screen working on some articles. I had read a few stories for the kids, tucked them into bed, and prayed with them. I had told Benjamin that he could read until 9 p.m. and then "hit the hay." But at 9:05 I felt a child's presence next to my chair—it was Benjamin.
Pushing my chair back from my computer and putting my arm around him, I said, "What's up, Buddy? You're supposed to be in bed, aren't you?"
Sheepishly, Benjamin replied, "Dad, uh, I was up there reading Huckleberry Finn and there were these bad guys, these robbers ..." He paused, looking at the floor, then went on, "... and Dad, I'm afraid some robbers are going to get me upstairs while I'm sleeping."
I pulled this scared boy close and gave him a firm hug and said, "Hey, it's all right. Let me tell you what happened with your sister Ashley the other morning." I then went on to share about her fears and the process of unplugging her dependence on me and plugging it into God.
I had just taken Benjamin's hand and pulled out one of those invisible cords plugging it in above his head into God, when I felt another child's presence in the room. It was Ashley. (She had heard the conversation from her bedroom and, being the socialite of the family, decided she had to get in on the action.) "What's going on?" she inquired.
"Benjamin is a little afraid," I responded. A big sly grin broke across her face as Ashley realized her macho brother was scared. "Benjamin, you mean you are afraid?" Ashley said with surprise sprinkled with a tiny bit of glee.
"Yeah," Benjamin responded, admitting he had a need. Ashley then went on to share from her garage theology class.
After praying with them, I scooted them off to bed. I turned and watched them walk up the stairs together. They were side by side and Ashley had her arm around her brother telling him, "It's okay, Benjamin, I'm going through the same thing." Another rare, teachable moment.
Passing on God's agenda
Teachable moments are opportunities for us as parents to imprint God's values on the next generation. They represent the God-ordained means by which we will pass on God's agenda for the planet earth to our children.
When my six kids were still at home, I knew I had to be "plugged in" to my heavenly Father if I was going to have any success in imparting real Christianity to the next generation and if I was going to be able to spot and seize those God-ordered moments. He sent them every day.
He'll send them to you, too. Are you ready to seize them?
Copyright ©2006 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.
Listen to Dennis Rainey talk more about stepping up to manhood on a recent FamilyLife Today® broadcast.
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