There are many moments that stand out to me as change moments in life and ministry. A time when I either needed to quit or change my thinking and attitude. None of them were pain free – believe me – but in hindsight the pain was worth it.
Before I was a parent, I sure thought I had it down. I was a teacher, therefore I knew kids, right? But, being part of a student’s life and being their parent are two very different things. I was a part-time middle school leader at church when I learned the critical lesson – we don’t know what we don’t know. Even though I had my own kids, they were under 8 years old meaning I had no idea what it was like to be a parent of a teenager.
That day as I hung up the phone, I slipped down onto my kitchen floor and cried. I had never been chewed out so thoroughly by a parent. I felt humbled, hurt, surprised, and small. She had every right to be angry and she made very valid points, all I wanted to do was quit.
It had been a great day at an amusement park, kids had a blast riding rides and eating junk food. I had carefully put them in groups to go around the park, made check-in times, and sent them off to enjoy it. They were in middle school; I was confident they could handle it. This mother was not. Although everyone returned tired and happy, she fully and thoroughly informed me of all the dangers at the park, how young middle schoolers are, and that any one of them could have been snatched and I wouldn’t have known until check-in time. Her children had not been safe and she let me know that I was irresponsible.
Didn’t she know I gave my whole day to her kids? Wasn’t she thankful I created this full day so her kids could have an adventure? Maybe. Could the middle schoolers handle the park? Yes. Was she right? Yes.
Although the kids did great, her anger at me stemmed from the fear that something awful could have happened – I totally get it. I can now see how scary a park like that can be and the trust it takes to send your child off on a trip – with anyone.
Dr. Henry Townsend tell us that “People don’t make other people angry. Your anger has to come from something inside of you.” (Boundaries) I have found that almost every time a parent has been angry with me the bottom line is fear for their child, their amazing gift from God, and whether founded or not doesn’t really matter. The bottom line is that if they are unsure of the safety of their child with me it will hurt ministry, and that is on me. Empathy, and good counsel, have helped me understand the fear that can lead to anger and that led to a better awareness of how to walk with parents.
In this case, I had to admit what I didn’t know and change my thinking. Do you need to realize you don’t know what you don’t know? Like so many young youth workers I thought I knew exactly what I was doing, but I didn’t. This was a turning point as I moved forward in ministry. I didn’t know what I didn’t know – what was I going to do about it?
I had to realize they are her daughters, not mine, and I needed some help in understanding parents of teenagers. I apologized to this mom and asked for her help. She became a number one volunteer, graciously helping me in so many ways.
I could have quit, I could have just said deal with it, or I could humble my heart and realize I wasn’t a middle school parent. Have you had a run in or conflict with a parent? With anyone?
Does it matter?
Fools make fun of guilt, but the godly acknowledge it and seek reconciliation.
Proverbs tells us, the godly acknowledge the wrong and seek reconciliation. It’s one thing to acknowledge an issue but as followers of Jesus we are called to seek reconciliation – to heal relationships. This might mean that we don’t get to be right. We need to humble ourselves, take that knowledge, and seek change not only in the relationship but in ourselves. In what area do you need a change of heart in order to reestablish or reconcile a relationship?