Thursday, May 24, 2007

What Are We Teaching Our Children?

We all agree that today’s youth are the future of our country. As parents we are all aware of the magnitude of the jobs in front of us to raise children who have values and morals in a society where there are no absolute truths. As a parent, I take the opportunity to use every moment to teach my son what is right and what is wrong – and that there IS a difference. I teach him that we are responsible to an absolute God who has no gray areas. I teach him that what God says is the ultimate authority of how we should live our lives. I try to set an example for him, and fail miserably more times than not. But, I am trying. I try to make sure the role models in his life are Christian adults who model the behaviors I want him to learn.

Recently, we have been struggling with the Biblical concept of exhortation. Our baseball team has struggled to succeed because we have been a team of “I’s” instead of a team of “we’s”. The success of the individual player has been more important than the success of the team. Today, for example, we looked up the word “exhort” in the dictionary. We learned how to spell it and what it means. A simple definition that a nine-year-old can understand is “to cheer on, especially with shouting”. How appropriate a definition for a baseball team! I reminded my son that it was God’s direct command that we exhort one another – that we build up others with our words and not tear them down. Along with my efforts at home, our coach, a quiet man, has consistently reinforced this behavior on the field. If the one thing our team walks away with this year is the ability to build up another player when they are doing well and when they are not – the score, in my book, will all be recorded in the WIN column. You see, our team hasn’t been winning a lot this year. In fact, we’ve only won one game.

And then, I got to experience the “miracle” of a team that finally “got it”. Our team learned that when you build your friends up, they actually feel better about their skills and they actually play better. As the unofficial team “photographer”, I hear a lot of things that others don’t hear. I hear the conversations in the dug-out. Today, for the first time, I heard all the players saying nice things to each other – building each other up – practicing the Biblical truth of exhortation. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, that once they were feeling that their teammates believed in them, it bred confidence that they really could do the job they were put on the field to do. Children who never hit were hitting. Balls were being caught; outs were being made.

After an hour and a half of playing, our boys were up 9-3. And then, the adults took it out of their hands. Apparently, there is some type of tension between our coach and the umpires. I don’t know what it is, and I don’t care. It is not my business and should have nothing to do with my son, his team or the game of baseball. But, apparently it does and it did. Game start time was 6:00 p.m. Game end time should have been 7:30 p.m. At 7:32 p.m. the umpire allowed another inning to occur, even with protests from parents and coaches of our team. During this inning, questions arose as to whether the coach could drop his last batter. Much discussion ensued about this. The child in question eventually did bat. Then our pitcher accidentally hit three batters. Parents stood up and screamed at the field, “ARE YOU GOING TO LET THIS CONTINUE?” and made the assertion that the pitcher’s dad, our coach, told him to do that. Who in the world could come to the conclusion that this child would try to hit another kid and hurt him? These children play sports together all the time, share teams and different sports. They go to school together; they are friends. On and on it went until our kids lost 10-9.

Do I care that they lost? Of course. What parent wouldn’t? Would I have complained just because it was a loss? Absolutely not. But, here is the quandary. How do I now explain to my child that in life there are rules (the game is over after an hour and a half) and that he has to follow them – BUT others don’t. How do I explain that his team did everything right and were winning, but because of some idiotic adult tension, his team lost? How do I explain that his team lost the game that really was theirs because adults had some personal conflicts that continue, week after week, to come on the field? Why can’t we all get along? Why is it so hard to understand that the real reason we are out there at the park night after night is for our children to not only have fun but to learn life lessons that they can use all their lives? When my son grows up and gets a job will he transfer his baseball team skills and respect his boss and play by the rules – or will he learn that it really doesn’t matter if you play by the rules, you must win at all costs. Will he learn that exhortation and forgiveness are the most important skills he will learn or will he learn that if you don’t like someone you can get back at them in subtle ways – even if it hurts other innocent people in the process? Will he turn out to be the “untouchable” Pac-Man Jones or the unforgettable Cal Ripkin? Will he model the actions of the world or will he model the actions of his Savior? I know what I want for him. I know I want his role models to understand the impact they have on the lives of hundreds of children. I want them to understand that although they are children, they understand when things are not fair, and that it hurts them – probably a little worse than we adults, because they have not had the opportunities to learn just how bad our world really is.

I want adults to act like adults and to consider what they are teaching the future of our world by their actions.

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