Tomorrow we are driving our daughter and dropping her off at Lee University for her freshmen year of college. Honestly, when I think about it, I'm a bit emotional (some of you who know me are thinking, "no duh Brock"). Man, we love that girl but it's a kind of love I never knew existed until she was born (parents, you know what I'm talking about). But I remember 19 years ago when I became a father -> I had no earthly idea what to do... no seriously, not a clue! You'd think I would know because I had wonderful parents - but for whatever reason, when the doctor looked at Kelsey and I and said we could leave the hospital and take our newborn baby girl home, I immediately thought, "Oh #@#%! I. Do. Not. Know. What. I'm. Doing.!!!" But we put that little girl in the car seat and on the way home a peace-filled thought came over me. See, I had never been a dad before, but I had been a youth pastor for quite a few years. And this thought came to my mind, "I could just be a youth pastor at home."
I mean think about it - what do good youth pastors do? They plan activities that cause the group to grow closer to each other? They listen carefully. The pray and dream and strategize and implement. They create environments where everyone can experience God's warmth. They plan retreats and missions that causes the group to become aware of God's overwhelming presence and for their heads and hearts to be lifted towards the needs of others. This was a revelation to me, and so I drove the rest of that drive home with a sense of purpose and peace, knowing what the plan was: I'd be a youth pastor at home.
Now being a youth pastor at home is no easy task. Sometimes you just want to come home and let your hair down - just veg and do absolutely nothing except eat potato chips and watch Sports Center. So one day I asked my father how he was able to come home after really long and hard days at work and give so much to us as a family - and honestly, he was a remarkable father! He told me that he would pull the car over on the side of the road before coming home and just pray that God would empower him to love his family well, to speak his words, and to be his touch. For me this was again, revolutionary, even though I had done this as a youth pastor. Before I spoke or before youth group, I would pray that God's spirit would animate me and would use me to be his voice and his listening ear to the students around me. Why didn't I think to do this at home? So that's what I started doing: preparing my heart, mind, and soul to come home empowered by God to love my family well.
I think back on these years of being a dad and a youth pastor at home - it really has been my greatest joy! And I think about each day living on purpose, coming home and being God's hands and feet to my wife and daughter - it has been the greatest challenge of my life and probably the biggest tool God has used in his sanctifying work in me. Because I know me, this stuff just doesn't come natural for me - but God... Isn't that a great phrase in the Bible? But God. There will always be circumstances, situations, or people who trip us up and make us grouchy, but God shows up and works, intervenes and transforms our lives, so that we are salt and light in spite of ourselves. Even at home. Wow, his grace and his calling has been amazing!
Tonight we are having another ceremony for our daughter. We've done these rights of passage moments throughout Dancin's life and so tonight will be another one. A ceremony of blessing and sending and I can't wait! See, she's ready to be commissioned - she's ready to be sent. I've watched her closely and I see who she has become and while it's difficult to send her out - God has prepared her for this day! Honestly, as a youth pastor I never knew how difficult this day was for parents. I always knew it was hard for me to say goodbye to our graduates, but for a parent, it's a deeper and more profound experience. Yesterday my wife and I were finishing up planning for this ceremony and we both just started crying. We know full well that these years of have led to this point. Now, it's not like parenting is ending - I gather from my parents that parenting adult children is actually much more difficult. Sending her out and letting go isn't easy but, again, she's just so ready. We believe in her. We believe that she's ready to lead and lend a hand in bringing change to this world. We believe that God's hand is upon her and his favor is with her. We believe she's ready for hard and difficult times, ready for good times, and for anything that life throws at her because God has invested so much into her. The cool thing that I've discovered is that God believes in her as well. He has faith, in her.
So I apologize for the sappy family emotional stuff in this post but I really wanted to remind you that as a parent or a future parent, you play an amazing role and God is and is going to use you in mighty ways. Just don't forget who you are - you are a shepherd, a priest, and a youth pastor at home.