If you would like to explore the castle turn to page 37.
If you would like to speak to the princess turn to page 14.
I have always been an avid reader. There are few things I enjoy more than getting lost in a good book. When I was a child I enjoyed the Choose Your Own Adventure book series. The literature in these novels was very basic but there was something fun about being able to have some control over the story. The book was written in the second person and so the reader was always the star of the story. At various points the narrative would pause and you would be presented with a few options on what you as the hero wanted to do next. You could proceed with caution, take a bold step of courage, or simply make a wild choice to see what would happen. It was like walking through a maze. You could eventually navigate yourself to a happy ending if you made the right choices.
Too often I fear that parenting and disciple making within much of the Christian community is very similar to the Choose Your Own Adventure book series. As I look at back my own childhood I recognize that I came away convinced that I was essentially the author of my own story. I understood that I needed Jesus to save me from my sins and punch my ticket to heaven. I was equipped with the knowledge that attending church, reading my Bible, and seeking to love other people were important expectations of the Christian life. But I also firmly believed that the most of the adventure was mine to make.
If you want to be a lawyer or doctor then make good grades.
If you want to succeed in life avoid drugs, sex, and alcohol.
If you want to go to a good college diversify your activities and work really hard…
My future, according to those who preceded me, was mine for the making. But it would require good choices and diligence. Nothing would come easy, but if I were willing to apply the sweat equity, to focus, and to keep Christ in the equation, then I would succeed. College, career, and even the community where I wanted to live could be achieved if I made the right choices. Life was essentially reduced to proper living and doing.
It is true that our choices lead to outcomes. The book of Proverbs is full of insights on how our choices produce a variety of consequences – both positive and negative. Diligence will give you an audience with kings. Laziness ends in poverty. Obedience to your parents leads to long life. Foolishness can end in death. Each of these truisms has great merit, but are we missing something if we hone in too much on proper functioning in lieu of understanding who we are in the first place?
We are shalom makers
The Bible provides great instruction on how we should live and what we should think. Frequently we thumb through its pages in search of guidance, wisdom, and instruction. But beyond telling us how to operate, the Bible (even more importantly) tells us who we are.
For instance, in Matthew 5:9 Jesus states, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called ‘sons of God.’” In this passage Jesus is telling His disciples “who they are.” He is not telling them to go and make peace. He is letting them know that they are peacemakers. This is their identity.
The Hebrew word for peace is “shalom.” It is a beautiful word. Essentially shalom is a “harmony and delight in all of one’s relationships.” This includes our relationships with God, other people, creation, culture, and even ourselves. Jesus is telling us that we are “shalom makers.”
What if we spent time impressing this truth and identity upon our children? Hopefully we can teach them that once they are in Christ they are “shalom makers.” What if this identity became something that encompassed how they approached school, their friendships, their family, and even their future? What if their understanding of who they are preceded their focus on what they are supposed to be doing?
By God’s grace we must help them understand that peace can only be made in relationships and contexts where it is missing. Will they comprehend that places where peace is missing are risky, broken, and sometimes dangerous? Will they grasp that the ultimate Peacemaker, Jesus, is inviting us into His story and that He risked His very life to enter into the fragile and broken facets of our story to give us shalom?
All of us want our children to succeed at every good endeavor they pursue. But helping our children understand who they are also helps them embrace Whose they are. If our young people embrace the reality that their Designer designed them to be a particular kind of person, it helps them better understand how and why to make the choices that they will be faced with throughout life.
Some of our children will become lawyers, moguls of business, and doctors. Imagine what it would look like if they engaged those professions as “shalom makers.” Pursuing justice, sustenance, and health for those who are living without those things would look very different from pursuing self-interest. How will they produce shalom in their arenas through their very lives, their time, and their finances? An understanding of their identity will amplify and influence their choices in life in ways they could never imagine as they submit to what the Lord has built and called them to be.
As parents we must help our children understand that the Christian life is not a “choose your own adventure” opportunity. On the contrary, the Author and Finisher of our faith has chosen the adventure for us, and nothing could be more exciting!