Life is full of existential moments when we might say to ourselves, “This decision could change the course of my life forever.” (Note: Winning or losing a Saturday afternoon soccer game is not one of those moments. Passing or failing a particular math test is not one of those moments.)
High School Teacher Peter Greene’s blog post One Wrong Move speaks to this issue of children and young adults being so terrified of “the moment that defines their downward spiral into failure and squalor” that could possibly result in “living in a van by the river eating canned cat food warmed on a hot plate, alone and miserable and poor forever” that they become paralyzed and joyless. Also Hanna Rosen’s article about Silicon Valley kids who have a suicide rate four to five times the national average is an important read.
I distinctly remember a moment in my twenties when I realized that a decision I was about to make (breaking up with someone I thought I would marry) would change the course of my life. There are definitely moments like that for all of us. I made a decision and it was terrifying.
And yet, even if I had made a different choice, my life would not have crashed and burned forever and ever amen. The road would have been different, but I trust that God would have used whatever came around the bend.
Vibrant churches – if I might make the segue you’ve come to expect in this blog – are so sure of their call to make disciples and love their neighbors that they launch off into unknown territory less afraid of “making the wrong move” than they fear missing the cosmic point.
Dying congregations, on the other hand, are often paralyzed, fearing that The Wrong Move will send them off a cliff. The wrong move – for a church – could be anything from daring to call a pastor who doesn’t look like them to investing assets to start a hospital in Haiti to moving from one church building to another. Some of these moves are so absolutely harrowing that we choose not to move at all.
But there also churches that make terrifying decisions:
- I know a church which has decided to go for broke and spend their last chunk of financial assets to call a bilingual pastor for a three year designated time who – with their backing – will blitz the community around with whatever the neighborhood might need.
- There are other churches with plans to start new congregations which will – in no way – directly benefit their own congregation. But they are willing to invest in ministry that wholly benefits other people.
- I know a church that’s moved to a new building four times in their long history. When a building no longer matched their size or their needs, they moved to more appropriate spaces that allowed their ministry to shift for those times. (If you know how hard it is to move pews, you know that moving sanctuaries is miraculous.)
So – back to our kids.
Yes, there are Huge Decisions we make in life that impact our futures significantly. But not every decision is like that. Let’s encourage our kids to take electives that make their hearts sing. Let’s allow them to fail. Let’s give them a break.
And as for us – the adults in the room – the same is true. Let’s allow each other to make the kind of wrong moves that make our hearts beat faster. And let’s be around for each other when everything goes south.