by Tim Walker
God loves irony.
How do I know this? Well, it’s not from a particular Bible verse. It’s from my own life.
(Disclaimer: For my theological friends, I get it that a God who sees and knows all really isn’t ironic. Irony is from our perspective. But just roll with me here, yo.)
I have three very athletic children. Their favorite thing to do is to go outside and play various sports in our yard. From soccer to basketball to baseball to lacrosse, they switch effortlessly from one to another. Scoring goals, sharpening skills, sending tennis balls flying in the air.
The irony is that neither my wife nor I are athletic at all. Nada. I start praying for some type of supernatural intervention if a ball is heading toward me. There is absolutely no instinct within me to catch it. Everything within me wants to run the other way.
But my boys, all three of them, would just effortlessly throw up a hand if the ball was coming toward them and catch it in mid-air.
When I was in high school, my extracurricular activities at school consisted of band, Spanish club and SADD (Students Against Drunk Driving). My oldest son plays lacrosse.
Until a year ago, I knew nothing about lacrosse. Now, after a couple of seasons, well I’m still clueless, but can somewhat follow a game. I just don’t dare yell anything specific out because I know I’ll use the wrong words.
I remember the first time I heard someone yell out “Man up,” and I thought, That’s not very encouraging. Then I found out in a lacrosse guide for dummies that it’s an actual lacrosse term.
The other day at a game, I accidentally clapped for the other team.
While my kids are running up and down a basketball court or a lacrosse field, I’m the dad sitting on the sidelines sipping a Coke and wearing my Superman shirt. Geek dad/athletic kids.
At a recent lacrosse game, I started thinking about how foreign this world is to me. How different it is to my own personal experience, and how familiar it is to so many other parents. They just seem to be into it so much more than me.
I wonder if that’s how a parent whose kid starts going to church feels. Especially one who either has baggage with their own past church experience, or has no point of reference.
After all, at lacrosse, I’m entrusting my kid to a coach that I don’t even know. He doesn’t talk with me. We’re not buddies. I don’t even know if I like the guy or not. He’s in his early 20s and he walks far away from the parent’s section, usually late, and on to the field.
At the games, people speak a language that I don’t understand. They have a passion for this that I simply don’t have. I’m there because my kid loves it, and I love my kid. I love to watch my kid. But I don’t love the sport.
And quite honestly, I don’t fully trust the whole thing. I’m a little suspicious of people being so “pro-lacrosse.” I’m reluctant to put money into it when asked. I’m not going to join in the “rah-rah” about another winning season. (They probably don’t even use the words “rah-rah.” Once again, the geek comes through.)
Other than my own personal investment of my kid, and seeing him work hard out on the field, if I’m completely honest, I hold the entire thing at a cautious distance.
I just wonder if that’s how some people feel when they encounter the church. If it all feels so weird, foreign, even hostile because they don’t necessarily trust or know what’s going on.
I just take for granted that other people “get” church. I’ve been in so long that even if I go someplace other than my church, I still understand what’s going on for the most part.
But the whole sports thing, well it’s a lot of new for this geek dad. I’m all for it. I love to see my boys play and support them. I want to see them better themselves and work hard for something. But that doesn’t mean that I trust it yet.
And while I may not always “get” the enthusiasm of parents on the sidelines, I do love seeing my son play.
It’s just going to take me a while to grasp the whole thing. I have to get past my own baggage, my own perceptions, even my own distance.
I may not ever be the ultimate lacrosse dad on the sideline in full body paint screaming “man up” and clapping at the appropriate time, but I love my son enough to try to understand what’s going on.
And maybe some of those parents keeping a healthy distance from a youth group, the ones who drop off their kid because their kid likes and wants to be there, but they are not quite sure about the whole thing—maybe we’re not that different.
Have you thought about what your student ministry looks like to a parent?
Tim Walker is a husband, father of three boys, editor, writer, superhero—well, you get the idea. More of Tim’s words can be found at https://thegrayzone.wordpress.com/. ©2011 Tim Walker. All rights reserved. Used with permission.