Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Zeal for life

“All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, but the Lord weighs the motives” -Prov. 16:2

It’s difficult to know when to let our teens make their own choices and live with the results and when to step in and say “no.” There is no area that tests our motives as parents more than decision-making. We all like to think we’re striking the right balance but often there is no balance at all. If we’re not careful, deep inside, we’re making decisions for our teens that suit our agenda.

Too often, we claim to be protectors of our kids when in truth we’re over-protecting. At the other extreme, we permit our kids to over-extend themselves to meet our need. We might allow our kids to attend too many sports camps and clinics in the summer, knowing that they’re too busy. Deep inside, we see it as the pathway to them being the next super star athlete (that we never were, by the way). We claim it's for their future but it’s really for ours.

Much has been reported about the 16-year-old sailor on a round-the-world journey. She alone was drifting in the frigid southern Indian Ocean on Friday as rescue boats headed toward her yacht, damaged by 30-foot waves that knocked out her communications and prompted her to set off a distress signal. After a tense 20 hours of silence, a search plane launched from Australia's west coast made radio contact with Abby Sunderland on Friday.

A lifelong sailor, Sunderland had begun her journey trying to be the youngest person to sail solo, nonstop around the world and continued her trip after mechanical failures dashed that dream. She told searchers Friday that she was doing fine with a space heater and at least two weeks' worth of food, said family spokesman William Bennett.

Abby's father, Laurence Sunderland, rejected criticism that it was far too dangerous to allow a 16-year-old to sail around the world by herself. "Sailing and life in general is dangerous. Teenagers drive cars. Does that mean teenagers shouldn't drive a car?" Laurence Sunderland told the AP. "I think people who hold that opinion have lost their zeal for life. They're living in a cotton-wool tunnel to make everything safe." Abby's brother, Zac, himself a veteran of a solo sail around the world at age 17, said he told his sister to be prepared for storms and other problems. But he said it's in her nature to handle those calmly. "I think Abby is quite a conqueror, quite level headed," her brother said on ABC's "Good Morning America" on Friday.

More has been written today about the sailor’s father. Only the father’s heart and God know the motives behind it all. But it reminds me that every parent has to make a choice: do we make the choices for our teens or with our teen? It’s really a simple heart question: are we truly letting our teen own his life choices? Certainly, we should correctly draw lines and insist that our kids hold to family boundaries and values, but choices of preference should be theirs.

Don't forget that we’re raising our kids to fly on their own. Let them risk and experience success and failure in this life. Check your heart and keep your motives unselfish and pure. And let your teen enjoy sailing, whether it’s stormy or not.

By Eric Joseph Staples ©

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