DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Life is Like a Clock

Written by: on March 31, 2020

Life is like a clock

It has an exterior seen by people

And an interior filled with gears.

 

The clock has a function.

How well it functions depends

on the gears contained within

and how well they work together.

 

Faith is one of those gears.

So is God

and Jesus

and Spirit

and personality

and all the things that make up

the uniqueness of me.

 

When the clock functions well

It enables people who see it to

Function well within their day.

If the gears of faith

And God

And Jesus

And Spirit are dominant gears

Then others see Jesus

As I serve God.

 

These gears of faith

And God

Can be interchanged

With different clocks that exist in the world,

Such as the church clock

And the athletic clock.

 

While the gears that make up faith and God

Can be moved from the church clock to the athletic clock,

The reverse isn’t true.

Because the church clock is fixed,

Closed,

Not open to the things of the world,

Or the things I love.

 

I look at the church clock from afar

Living in a space of happy medium

within the world,

Taking my faith and God gears into those spaces

But unable to take my world into the church.

 

A choice had to be made:

Do I continue in the church clock

Filled with plastic parts which fail to keep accurate time?

Or do I stick with the athletic clock that

Allows me to be myself

And trust God to be there?

 

I chose to stick with the athletic clock

Where authentic relationships happen

And the ability to become exists

In ways that help me later in life.

 

There are no plastic gears in that clock

Because the gears of faith and the Divine

Help it to function smoothly

Allowing God to be served

And experienced

Through respect, love, and kindness.

 

 

 

This is summary of the metaphorically infused conversation I had with my 16-year-old son last night (approved and used with his permission); a conversation which was sparked by Kenda Creasy Dean’s Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church. Dean highlights how “American young people are, theoretically, fine with religious faith- but it does not concern them very much, and it is not durable enough to survive long after they graduate high school.”[1] She notes how many teens have embrace the five guiding principles of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism:

  • A god exists who created and orders the world and watches over life.
  • God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
  • The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
  • God is not involved in my life except when I need God to resolve a problem.
  • Good people go to heaven when they die.[2]

 

She also charted study results from the national Study of Youth and Religion regarding Four Religious Ideal Types.[3]

Her observations served as the catalyst for the conversation with my son.

My son grew up going to church for most of his life. He went to Sunday school and participated in various children’s ministry activities. From age 2 to 10 he attended Bible Study Fellowship in both the preschool and school age programs. I remember taking him to pick up my leadership packet for a new BSF year of study. When we walked in the church, he saw the Cross hanging by the alter. He quickly, without prompting, shared the gospel with the other leaders present. We all beamed thinking, “This is why we serve the way we do.” He was the model 4-year-old of the BSF program. He also participated in local ministry outreach opportunities and short-term mission trips, learning at an early age the importance of caring for others.

When we moved to Oregon, our family spent time searching for just the right church. When we attended one that both of our kids felt comfortable in, we stayed. My son was in first grade. He loved the kids’ program and his leader, Mr. Wooley. Mr. Wooley looped up each year with the rowdy group of boys that were in my son’s class. He was a constant presence that provided a safe space where my son felt loved. Each week my son bounded into the church ready to learn and have fun. He was baptized in fourth grade, but by the time he’d reached fifth grade, his interest was waning, as the kids’ curriculum was geared more toward younger kids.

As he moved into the middle school program, he found the Sunday teaching to be similar. Lots of silly games happened before a simple bible story was taught. Most weeks, he found the content to be uninteresting and struggled to share content with us when asked what they did in their worship time. During these years, he also attended a Tuesday morning, large group, middle school bible study, and eventually added a Thursday morning, small group bible study (Wyldlife). It was in this small group setting that he seemed most comfortable and best able to learn deeper spiritual truths.

Over time, Sunday morning church attendance declined because of his soccer schedule. The Tuesday morning study fell off the calendar in eighth grade, and by high school, the Thursday group followed suit. School and athletic scheduling conflicts combined with boredom and distrust in the simplified curriculum caused him to lose interest in pursuing a community of faith.

During his late elementary, middle school, and early high school years, our family experienced huge emotional and spiritual upheaval. My religious legalism was dismantled through my attendance in seminary. Many of the theologies I’d clung to were challenged and deconstructed in ways that impacted my whole family. Overall, this was a positive thing, but it also had some negative consequences.

On one hand, my legalistic bent led my daughter to believe she would never be able to live up to God’s standard, and she wholeheartedly believed God was not interested in her life since God never answered her prayers. By the end of middle school, she wanted nothing to do with God or church, so she walked away. On the other hand, my son was ok with faith and God, but had little interest in actually attending our non-denominational evangelical church because he saw how its beliefs were different than those I began to embrace through my seminary learning.

For the past 5-6 years we have all be in a state of spiritual flux.

Based on the conversation I had with my son, there are echoes of Moralistic Therapeutic Deism in his spiritual toolbox. He also doesn’t quite fit into the any one of the four religious ideal types. Clearly, he is no longer the poster boy for spreading the Gospel, as his ability to articulate his faith and beliefs about God is fragmented at best.

The path to this outcome was complicated. But I also believe it’s not complete…for either of my kids. While I fully agree the responsibility for the messy faith of my son lies on my parenting and the church’s discipleship model, I believe wholeheartedly in the redeeming Grace of God. I trust in time, through personal intention and the Spirit’s intervention, we can move him toward a more stable spiritual foundation, so he can find grounding in the love of God throughout his lifetime.

 

Photo by Shawn Lee on Unsplash

[1] Kenda Creasy Dean. Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church. (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2010) 3.

[2] Ibid., 14.

[3] Ibid., 41.

About the Author

mm

Darcy Hansen

17 responses to “Life is Like a Clock”

  1. mm Shawn Cramer says:

    If you think about it, would you thank your children for me for their willingness to let their stories be told. My conversation with my 9-year-old was much more superficial, but I at least attempted it, too.

    • mm Darcy Hansen says:

      I definitely will. But know, his story at 9 years old would have been very different than it is now. I think the point is that yes, we play a role in their faith development, as does the church. But he has had some amazing voices in his life that have shaped him: coaches, teachers, friends. Not all are Christian, but all are still good.

      When the church fails to invite all people to the Table, when they fail to talk about the hard things, then a choice has to be made. My son decided if he, or I, or anyone else couldn’t be themselves in those supposedly welcoming spaces, then he’d rather not be there. Some of that influence comes from me, but he gets to own his part, too.

      The journey is theirs to take, and God is still God. I have to entrust my kids into God’s hands. There are just so many things I can and cannot control. How my children choose to walk with Jesus is not one of them. All I can do is model a life of spiritual transformation, faithfulness to God’s call to love others, and hope in some way they allow themselves to take the brave steps to be transformed.

      Shawn, you’re a good dad. Keep the conversations happening between you and your kids. That, I think, is one of the most important things you can do.

      • mm Shawn Cramer says:

        Thanks for the encouragement, Darcy. I think another, practical thing to model is repentance. I often ask college students how many of them have experienced a deep apology from their parents, and most have not.

        • Darcy Hansen says:

          Shawn,
          I have asked my daughter for forgiveness and she has yet to forgive me for things I’ve done/said. That is a hard weight to bear as a parent, the feeling like the things you’ve done are simply unforgivable. It also makes it really hard to step into that space of vulnerability. Few like to be rejected. I trust the time will come when we can have those conversations again. Maybe the outcome will be different. I’m hopeful the conversations will continue with my son. He definitely deserves a repentant and apologetic parent. He’s weathered a lot.

  2. Definitely, you are right life is a clock. When a child born it becomes a toddler and then younger and then adult. When we look back to our past. We thought about how time flies very fast. So we try to make life happy.

    • Darcy Hansen says:

      Thanks for reading. I’ve heard it said, “The days are slow but the years are fast.” I suppose doing our best each day is all we can do to piece life together. Looking back gives perspective and hope for the future.

  3. mm Dylan Branson says:

    Thanks for sharing, Darcy. I think one of the important things you hit on is the idea of presence. For me, I grew up in the church with both of my parents serving in some capacity (my dad was a trustee and my mom volunteered in the nursery). When I was little, my mom would lead me and brother in our bedtime prayer (“Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take”), but outside of that we didn’t have much “spiritual” talk.

    It was the content presence of a church that actively invested in me throughout my time in children’s church that really solidified a lot of my faith. My Mr. Wooley was a man named Rick whose mission that God called him to was working with kids. He not only cultivated a safe environment, but he also actively talked about the Bible and church with me. When I eventually went to the youth group, I found that it wasn’t nearly as stimulating as my time in children’s church, but it presented different opportunities that helped me grow. I think by the time I was a teenager, I could see the way my parents modeled their faith; not so much in words, but in the little actions that they did. Those are the lessons that I’ve hidden and pondered in my heart.

    • mm Darcy Hansen says:

      I love how you noticed the little things your parents did and hold them as guides, in a way, for your own journey. Presence matters, but I think the type of presence matters more. Consistent, compassionate, considerate, and sometimes even challenging presence goes a long way, whereas condemning, controlling, and coddling presence tends to do more harm than good. How we lead our youth matters. I fear many are not led well. I’m glad you were.

  4. mm Jer Swigart says:

    Darcy. I’m struck by the moment in this post where your seminary experience led to the dismantling of your legalism. I’m curious how your process of deconstruction altered your approach to discipling your kids.

    • mm Darcy Hansen says:

      I think once I realized scripture wasn’t as rock solid (clean cut, straight forward) as I thought it was (I was a fundamentalist and leaned pretty heavy toward literalism of scripture) is when I started opening my fists and releasing my legalistic tendencies fully. But the real game changer came when I realized I had been parenting out of shame for so long. I knew something was off, but I never knew what it was until I read Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection my first year in seminary (not assigned reading, but it coincided with what I was learning). Once I had language for why I was so legalistic and controlling, it allowed Spirit to get into the dark recesses of my heart to begin healing deep wounds. The more free I became, the more I trusted in the wonder and grace of God over the wrath and condemnation of God.

      Parenting is hard and messy. I look back knowing I did the best with what I knew at the time, but I also know I would never do it that way again knowing what I know now. Sadly, the damage has been done. I pray God is able to reconcile those severed bonds not just my kids, but also for a generation of kids that were raised in a similar way through conservative, legalistic evangelicalism (or are still being raised that way).

  5. mm Greg Reich says:

    Darcy,
    Parenting is a messy business at best. As I read you blog I couldn’t help but wonder how Mary and Joseph may have felt about their parenting skills. Luke 2:41-52 relays the story of how Mary and Joseph lost God. Despite that fact that they knew who Jesus was they left him behind. Wow child protective services would have a heyday with that today.

    Despite our own brokenness as parents we do the best we can. We try to find safe places of worship to help us in building our children up in the faith. I am a true believer there is learning in everything. I had a less than perfect father who struggled his entire life with trusting people, especially women due to and abusive mother and promiscuous first wife. Despite his brokenness and aggressive approach to life I saw how he struggled with his faith and persevered despite his hurt and anger. Though my deep spiritual heritage comes from my mom I learned a lot about life and the faithful ever pursuing love of God from my dad.

    • Darcy Hansen says:

      Greg,
      I can only hope my kids have as fond of memories a of me as you do of your parents. I always appreciate how you cling to the best of them. It’s really beautiful. Thank you for sharing:)

      Yes, I’d say most parents are doing the best they can and trusting God with the ultimate good for their kids.

      • mm Greg Reich says:

        Darcy,
        My parents were far from perfect and my parenting life was and is filled with pitfalls and pot holes. I most definitely have wounds and scars some of my own making and some outside of my control. Over the years I have learned the power and freedom that comes with making hard choices. Several years ago I heard a sermon illustration that changed my perspective on life. In nature flowers make a natural substance called nectar. A hermit spider takes the nectar and makes a deadly poison. A bee takes nectar and makes one of the sweetest substances known to man; we call it honey. They both use the same substance but a have a much difference response. I have very little control over how people and life treat me. I do have total control on how I allow it to affect me and how I will respond.

  6. mm John McLarty says:

    The good news that gives me hope is my belief that salvation is a journey, not a singular event and that by God’s sanctifying grace, we are in constant process of being redeemed. The secret is to stay on the path and to trust that God is there as well.

    • Darcy Hansen says:

      John,
      That’s been a big take away for the week. Yes, we can change how we disciple adults and youth, and that may provide course correction and direction, but at the end of the day, God will work according to God’s will and way to bring about God’s purposes. No one could have guessed when I was young I’d ever be working on a DMin. As bad as faith things seem for the emerging adults, God’s not done yet. Surprises are still in store.

  7. 49ers says:

    I love to read about time, life and travels. recently i watched ” Dark ” a germen netflix series and i loved it because it shows about life and time travel. You should watch that series 😀 u will love that

    thanks for this wonderful post..keep posting good thoughts

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