by Alex Hardt, Associate Pastor to Youth and Young Adults
One of the things I always pray for is the opportunity, God willing, to come at last to see you. For I long to visit you so I can bring you some spiritual gift that will help you grow strong in the Lord. When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours. – Romans 1:10-12
This last month I have been trying to encourage my kids to exercise and move around a bit more, so we do not go completely stir crazy. A little fresh air is good for all of us. One morning I decided we would take a bike ride around the neighborhood. The kids asked if they could do a poke hunt on the bike ride? (It is a game where you have to physically move around from spot to spot catching little animals called Pokémon.) Sure! It took us an extra half hour to get all our electronics together. We finally get on our bikes when my son’s device falls off his bike. Then at the bike park my daughter falls down because she is trying to catch a Pokémon. My headphone wires wrap around the handlebars. After a few more mishaps we finally decide to put everything in my backpack and just ride. You know what we realized? That all these gadgets got in the way of us being connected. That these wires hindered us from fully experiencing the joy that God had placed right before us. We ended up going on an hour-long ride, the kids did not complain, time flew by, and we had an amazing time together.
A NEW NORM
When this pandemic started, I shifted into survival mode. “What do I need to do in order to endure the next couple of weeks?” As this has continued, I am beginning to accept that sheltering in place and social distancing might be the new norm (in some form or another) for the foreseeable future. It is easy for us to underline the negative aspects of this situation, but this shift can also be an opportunity to start new habits that could transform our lives and relationships.
THE SEARCH FOR AUTHENTICITY
It is crazy to think that just over a month ago I was going through a crazy busy season. For church, it was camp season for middle school, high school, and young adults. I loved watching students come to know and accept Christ as their Lord and Savior. For my kids it was competition (gymnastics) and cookie sale season (my daughter is a Girl Scout). I loved watching my own kids excel at gymnastics, scouts, and school. On the flipside I could not remember what happened the previous day and caffeine was no longer able to supplement the overwhelming feeling of exhaustion. I remember at the end of the month my son saying, “Daddy why aren’t you going anywhere today?” Wow! I thought to myself, “Am I really gone that much?” What is my son talking about, I take him to school and all his events? That same week I heard from one of my most active students, “I don’t feel connected.” I thought to myself, “You are at every youth group, every event, and I see you all the time.”
In their own ways, both were saying they were yearning for authenticity and depth beyond what the program or activity was providing them. They were looking to not just be known but to be Known. This pandemic has caused me to pause and take a deeper look at the way I interact with my kids, with others, and with those in my ministry context. Over the last couple of weeks, I have spent more time calling students than engaged in program. I have been able to have longer and deeper conversations because the distractions have been removed. I am forced to disconnect from day to day programs and encounter those around me on a much more real and authentic level.
I’ll be honest, I don’t want anyone to see me at my worst moments. Yet, as a dad, I also think this season is an opportunity for our growing kids to see that we are human and, even more, hear us admit our limitations. I am not sure how to respond to what is happening around us, but together we are all figuring this out. It has opened the door to new conversations, authentic conversations. As a Youth Pastor, I have often talked with parents who wished they could slow down or have another chance to reconnect with their kids. Now’s our opportunity to grow with our kids by trying new approaches for new relational connections. God has wired us for connection! I am in for trying new things and building deeper relationships. I hope you are, too.
Practically Speaking | How might we Build Deeper Relationships?
- Have a game night or movie night each week
- Set aside time each night/day to have undistracted conversations (electronics off) with those you care about
- Do a daily devotional with your family
- When asking a question follow up with what is that like or tell me more or how has that been for you? OR perhaps another open-ended question
- Ask questions before jumping to conclusions
- Communicating rather than cloaking feelings