Some of the greatest surfers in the world have tested their skills at Surfers Paradise in Queensland, Australia. I have too. I was 18, fairly athletic, and brimming with confidence. A local friend gave me several pointers, so that was really all I needed, right? “Wait for a big wave. Paddle. Get to your knees. Then move to a squatting position. Then stand up. No worries, mate.”
When I saw the perfect wave coming, I paddled, catching it at just the right time. I brought my knees up to the board. Easy. But somewhere in the process of trying to stand, things went terribly wrong. The wave pummeled me. A gang of water, salt, and sand beat me like their worst enemy. I struggled to the surface, but the Pacific wasn’t done with me yet. The next wave snagged my board, which was floating behind me, and launched it into my head and shoulder. I was under again, and my goals changed. I quit caring about getting my picture on the cover of a surfer magazine. I just wanted to live. I still remember crawling to the beach and collapsing in the dry sand.
Learning to surf requires more than a 30-second tutorial.
The World as Your Classroom
Legendary surfers Aamion and Daize Goodwin gathered their 2-year-old son, newborn daughter, surfboards, and a few essentials and left their island home of Kauai for a yearlong quest through 15 countries in search of virgin waves and a legendary big fish. They lived in huts, abandoned houses, and campers, but never far from a beach.
The documentary, Given, chronicles their adventure through the eyes of the son. As their story unfolds, the true reason for their adventure is unveiled. It’s a family tradition. The father takes his son on a global odyssey, just as his father had taken him. The father imparts family stories, life lessons, and practical skills like surfing and fishing.
I like the son’s chances of being a better surfer than me.
The parents in the documentary understood how to impart wisdom to their children. They used the world as their classroom. They let their son learn by doing. Even when the son failed, they patiently gave him all the time he needed to learn. It’s a beautiful model. And I hope one day they experience the spiritual intimacy offered to us by Christ, rather than his creation.
A few years ago I wrote a book with the goal of helping parents become spiritual leaders in their home. I began with these words: “If God guaranteed that your kids and grandkids would faithfully walk with him in exchange for your right leg, you’d probably order crutches. You care deeply and passionately about the spiritual health of your family. In your moments of greatest clarity, it dominates your dreams. But caring about your family’s spiritual health and actually leading them towards spiritual health are two different things” (Lead Your Family: 12 Ready-to-Use Ideas to Spiritually Lead Your Family).
I still believe this. Many parents live in a fog. Their greatest hopes remain clouded by busyness, a pressure to keep up with their neighbors, a lust for more things, and an inability to discern what their kids want and need. But parents reading periodicals like this one, in moments of clarity, really care about the spiritual well-being of their children.
After preaching against the sin of worrying, Jesus said, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). Kingdom clarity wakes parents up in time to read a Scripture with their kids before school. Kingdom clarity sacrifices the end of a TV show in order to pray with your kids before bed. Kingdom clarity turns your home into a place to care for others, instead of just a giant toy box. Kingdom clarity looks for teaching opportunities around every corner.
Anytime, All the Time
When asked what the greatest commandment in all of Scripture was, Jesus answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30, 31).
Jesus’ listeners would have known he was acknowledging God’s shaping words to the Israelites, spoken about 14 centuries earlier. After giving the command to love the Lord, God wanted to make sure future generations would not forget. “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates” (Deuteronomy 6:6-9).
In other words, teach them to your family every chance you get: when you drive in your car, when you sit down for dinner, and when you walk the dog. Teach your children anytime. All the time.
My wife and I lead a small group from our church. We love them. We’ve grown together, laughed together, and cried together. We’ve celebrated good times and we’ve helped each other through tough times. Recently three of us went to the apartment of a lady in our group. A snake had slithered into her apartment a few days earlier and she discovered the unwelcomed guest on a trip to the restroom in the middle of the night . . . by stepping on it! She’s a city girl and she was scared to death. So we went to snake-proof her place. It’s because we love her. I love my small group.
At other times in my life, I’m busy shepherding a small group of staff, elders, or a youth basketball team. I’m called to love many small groups, but the first is my family.
In the midst of whatever pressure, disappointment, stress, or overwhelming challenge you currently face in leading your family, don’t forget that you’ve been given a great privilege. God chose you to provide leadership for that beautiful, weird, funny, annoying, sweet family of yours. What an incredible blessing you have. You get to help shape real, live human beings.
If there’s a perfect scheduling system for giving the right amount of time to your family, as well as all the other groups God has placed in your life, I don’t know it. But I do know God has given you all the time you need to do whatever he’s asked you to do. Here are a few guidelines.
• You need to set some boundaries. You need to walk away from your office, your computer, and your phone for times with your family every day.
• You need to set specific times to learn from God’s Word and pray with your family.
• You need to look at a calendar and decide whether busy seasons can be managed without sacrificing too much.
• You need to talk with your spouse about your schedule more than you think.
• You need to Sabbath well (be wise in resting yourself so that you have something to give).
Ultimately, we trust God will be gracious with us. We’ll lean on his perfection instead of our imperfect attempts to lead our families.
Give your best to your church, your small group, your work, your school, but never forget, parents, your best small group is under your roof. Help your kids experience the adventures God has for them.
Do you know what’s better than being a fisher of fish? Being a fisher of men.
Do you know what’s better than standing on a surfboard? Walking on water.
Lead well. Surf’s up.
Brian Jennings and his wife, Beth, live in Tulsa, Oklahoma with their four children. Brian preaches at Highland Park Christian Church, and serves on the Board of Blackbox International. You can purchase his book, Lead Your Family, and read his blog at www.brianjenningsblog.com.