Spiritual Leadership and Gardening

If you are a spiritual leader in any milieu—or if you ever plan to be—you should learn to garden. Spiritual leadership and gardening both require the same mindset, the same skills, the same posture, and the same dedication.

This winter was so long. We had snow in the middle of April, for goodness sake! Since the weather broke, warm sunshine began peering through the clouds, and the world began to spring to life a few weeks ago, my family and I have been outside as much as possible. One of the things we most look forward to is the annual planting of the vegetable garden. I can already taste the tomato salsa we’ll make as well as the fresh strawberry shakes and fried zucchini. (Who says fruit and veggies have to be healthy!)

Last weekend, as I was putting the final touches on the new garden box, breaking up the soil snow-compacted soil, and yanking up a few bothersome weeds so Kelly could move in and begin working her magic in the garden, I had a thought:

Spiritual leadership and gardening are twin disciplines.

Life is a great teacher. In 17 years of ministry experience, I’ve learned a lot about what to do and, of course, what not to do. I’ve also learned so many lessons as a husband and a father, as a friend, and as a Christian wrestling to make sense of the world around me. Kneeling in front of the garden last weekend, I realized there are so many similarities between spiritual leadership (the overarching theme and goal of all those relationships) and gardening. They both require a similar mindset, skills, and posture.

The mindset of spiritual leadership and gardening

Our son wanted to plant carrots. A few minutes after we got them in the ground and watered them, he asked when they’d be ready. He was expecting it to be a matter of minutes, not months.

Gardens don’t grow overnight. They require that the gardener possess a long-term mindset. Someone who is planting a garden simply has to be patient. They plant in the spring and can only begin to harvest a few months later. And planting and waiting won’t work. A gardener must also demonstrate a great amount of dedication while he or she waits for the garden to produce. Growing a garden is a commitment. Day after day, week after week, and month after month, the gardener must continue to return to the garden to tend it. Patience and dedication are also required character traits of spiritual leaders. Like gardens, people don’t bloom overnight. They take weeks and months of dedicated, patient care.

The spiritual leader, like the gardener, must have the right mindset if they desire to see results. But, that’s not all. they must also possess the right skills.

The skills of spiritual leadership and gardening

I mentioned earlier that I do the heavy work. My wife has a green thumb, the one with the skills to keep the conditions right so the garden can reach its full potential. Spiritual leadership, like gardening, requires great skill.

A gardener expends a lot of energy cultivating, getting the soil just right. They work the soil so it is perfectly hospitable, conducive to the development of young seedlings. Additionally, and seemingly without end, they protect their plants and soil by pulling greedy invaders from the environment. It’s amazing how much weeding both gardening and spiritual leadership require. The gardener or spiritual leader who refuses to pick weeds puts his or her plants at risk. Finally, in addition to cultivation and weeding, a gardener must feed and water the plants. Without food and water, especially during the hottest parts of the summer, tender plants will be stunted, they’ll wither, and they may even die.

The spiritual leader must possess the skills of cultivating healthy environments, mitigating the effect of dangerous situations or malicious people, and to providing the nourishment required for sustained growth. Finally, gardening and spiritual leadership require the correct posture.

The posture of spiritual leadership and gardening

Every gardener understands that something supernatural happens when you plant a garden. And, they know that the outcome is really out of their hands. While they use all of their skills to give each plant the greatest chance of health and fruit, the growth of a seed into a fruit-bearing plant is the work of God. Therefore, spiritual leadership, like gardening, requires the proper posture.

My wife and I garden almost exclusively on our knees. And I don’t think that’s a coincidence. The proper posture of a spiritual leader, like the gardener, is a humble posture of faith and prayer. Spiritual leadership is ultimately—as the name implies—the work of the Spirit. He is the one who produces the increase. Placing a seed in the ground or planting a seed in a human heart is, therefore, an act of faith. The one who plants believes in what he or she hopes for and is certain of what he or she does not see (Hebrews 11:1). And, if planting is an act of faith, it stands to reason that gardeners and spiritual leaders must dedicate themselves to prayer.

In addition to the proper mindset, skills, and posture, there’s one more thing to say about spiritual leadership and gardening. The one who cultivates, plants, waters, weeds, and prays gets to enjoy the fruit of the harvest.

The fruit of spiritual leadership and gardening

I’m so excited for fresh tomatoes. I can’t wait to walk around the corner of the house and smell the fresh basil. We’re going to have some fantastic salads. And, have I mentioned that I make killer salsa? I can taste it already.

The elderly Apostle John summed it up when he remarked that nothing brought him more joy than the knowledge that his children were walking in the truth (3 John 4). In other words, it thrilled him to know that the Spirit caused the seeds he had planted and watered, in the ground he had cultivated, to grow and to bear fruit.

The joy and fulfillment for the gardener is very similar to the experience of watching someone you’ve led bear fruit. It’s the joy of the harvest that keeps the gardener focused. Spiritual leaders, keep working. Keep pulling weeds. Keep watering and feeding. Your work is not in vain. As you continue praying, hoping, and trusting God to bring a harvest, you will be encouraged to know that your hard work is not in vain.

If you are a spiritual leader—or if you ever plan to be—you should put in a garden this spring. There’s still time. Becoming a gardener will make you a better leader.

Mutual Submission and Marriage

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I knew it was going to happen sooner or later. I had been hoping for later. But it took place right out of the gate. On the very first week of a six-week marriage class, someone asked me about the dreaded S-word.

How do we understand submission given the social norms we see today?

So much for starting off with an easy question. This question gets right at the heart of the biblical understanding of marriage. Even though it’s a tough question, it makes sense to begin here.

You have to read and understand [biblegateway passage=”Ephesians 5:21-33″ display=”Ephesians 5:21-33″]. In these 13 verses, Paul paints a picture of the mystery, beauty, and meaning of Christian marriage. And, yes, submission is a big factor. Before we answer the question, let’s examine this text. I’m going to do something a little unorthodox, however, and I’m going to work backward. You’ll understand why in a bit.

A husband’s self-sacrificing love

The foundation of Christian marriage, and the ultimate reality to which Christian marriage points, is Jesus’ self-sacrificing love for the Church, his bride. Paul says that Jesus’ love for the Church is the model.

Notice the preposition as in [biblegateway passage=”Ephesians 5:25″ display=”verse 25″]. Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loves the church: in the same way, with the same persistence, with the same purity, with the same affection, with the same patience, and with the same fidelity. Christian husbands ought to love their wives to the extent that they’d be willing to sacrifice even their own lives for their wives’ protection, purity, holiness, and salvation.

Christian husbands are to love their wives and to give themselves up for them in the same way Christ loved the Church. Let that sink in.

A wife’s respectful love

So many people are tripped up by Paul’s command to women in [biblegateway passage=”Ephesians 5:22-24″ display=”verses 22-24″]. Yes, he does require Christian wives to submit to their husbands in the same way they submit to the Lord. But, that’s not all. Buried at the end of this text, in the second half of [biblegateway passage=”Ephesians 5:33″ display=”verse 33″], Paul summarizes his thoughts by saying that Christian wives ought to respect their husbands.

The fact that Christian wives respect and submit to their husbands’ Christ-like, self-sacrificing love and leadership does not mean that they are silent, that they sacrifice their opinions, that they negate their own rights, that they don’t bring every strength they possesses into the relationships, or that they are a weak, fragile, or lesser people. On the contrary, they demonstrate their ultimate faith in Christ by actively supporting, respecting, and loving the husbands God gave them.

Christian wives who have mastered the art of respecting their husbands will find that they are active partners with God in helping their husbands become the type of men they ought to be.

Understanding submission

Now that we understand the type of love Christian husbands and wives are to have for one another we can talk some more about submission. Here’s the most important thing to understand:

In marriage, submission is not a one-way street.

Paul begins this text with the [biblegateway passage=”Ephesians 5:21″ display=”clear command”] for husbands and wives to submit to one another. Why? What’s the motivation? Reverence for Christ.

The fact that Paul, after commanding husbands and wives to submit to one another, pivots toward wives and tells them to submit to their husbands does not negate the man’s responsibility to submit himself to his wife through self-sacrificing acts of love. It illustrates the woman’s responsibility to edify her husband through acts of respectful love.

The willingness to submit to one another—out of reverence and following the example of Christ—is a sign that a husband and wife are humble, deeply bonded, affectionate, kind, and growing in godly character. It is an essential element of a lasting marriage.

As a side note: don’t forget, Jesus submitted himself to the will of his Father. Did his submission diminish his worth as a member of the Trinity? Did the fact that he dedicated himself to the will of the Father somehow make him less, decrease his divine identity, or make him weak? Absolutely not!

Standing out from the crowd

I haven’t forgotten. An important part of the original question dealt with social norms. I haven’t mentioned social norms yet simply because, first and foremost, we have to clearly understand how to believe and behave as Christians. That means we must be transformed by the Spirit’s working through the Word before we are conformed to the whims and will of our culture.

Don’t miss this: Mutual submission, respectful, and self-sacrifice are deeply counter-cultural. They run against the grain of both the society around us and the sin within us.

And, that shouldn’t be a surprise.

God is calling us deeper. He wants to transform us. In his wisdom, he gave us the gift of the institution of marriage to be a primary driver in that life-long transformation process.

Lest we gaze too longingly at society, wondering if we’d be better off if we more closely resembled culture’s norms, remember that the world has yet to offer a better, less damaging, more honoring alternative to life-long, monogamous, respectful, self-sacrificing, mutually submissive, Christian marriage.

Discussion questions

Take a few minutes to reflect on these questions. And, feel free to leave a comment or continue the discussion below.

  1. What are some ways the biblical ideal of Christian marriage are superior to the typical way our world views marriage?
  2. Husbands, how are you impacted by Paul’s command to love your wives as Christ loved the Church, showing self-sacrificing love? What do you need to do in order to grow in this?
  3. Wives, how are you impacted by Paul’s command to submit to your husbands in the same way you submit to the Lord, showing respectful love? What do you need to do in order to grow in this?

The Big Picture of Marriage

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Have you ever attended a wedding in a garden? I’ve had the privilege of officiating several of them. It’s beautiful … as long as the weather cooperates.

Now, Kelly and I would have never been brave enough to plan an outdoor wedding. We both value control—or at least the illusion of control—too highly to plan a wedding that would be at the mercy of unpredictable elements. Nevertheless, when a bride and a groom can pull off a garden wedding under a bright blue sky, it’s a wonderful thing to behold.

The first wedding celebration took place in a garden.

The final wedding celebration will take place in paradise.

Understanding the first and final weddings can give us a better understanding of the big picture of marriage.

The first marriage

God formed Adam from the dust of the earth and placed him in the garden. All was well for a while. However, it didn’t take long before Adam recognized it wasn’t good for him to be alone. God saw what was going on, placed Adam in a deep sleep, and formed Eve from his rib. When Adam woke up, rubbed his eyes, and looked around his perfect complement was standing there in front of him.

He wrote the first love song on the spot! [Cue “At Last” by Etta James.]

God said, “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh,” ([biblegateway passage=”Genesis 2:24″ display=”Genesis 2:24″]). Some time later, his Son would add, “Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate,” ([biblegateway passage=”Matthew 19:6″ display=”Matthew 19:6″]).

Little could Adam and Eve have known but their wedding in the garden was pointing toward something far beyond the two of them. Their marriage was the first pixel in a far bigger picture.

The final marriage

One day, maybe sooner than we realize, there will be another wedding celebration in paradise, one that will put all of the others to shame. The groom, Jesus, will return in great splendor to claim his bride, the Church, as his own. As he brings heaven to earth, he’ll draw her to his side, clothe her in radiant white, and seal the vows for which he bled in front of the approving eyes of our heavenly Father.

At this wedding ceremony, all of the pixels will have been set in place and the picture will finally shine in ultra-high-definition brilliance. We’ll finally see the big picture of marriage as we celebrate with Jesus.

Two takeaways for all the marriages in between

It truly is beautiful to consider the significance of the wedding in the garden in the light of the final wedding in paradise. But, what does that mean to us? Why is this important for those of us who are struggling to make our marriages work in the here and now?

There are two takeaways for all of us.

First, your marriage points to something bigger. Your marriage may only be a pixel in the big picture. Shine with all the brilliance you can muster. You’ll lack clarity sometimes. You may feel burnt out. But, understanding your marriage in light of God’s will for his church, your Savior’s love for you, and the power the Spirit provides will help you to faithfully point to the truth of God’s redeeming love for the world.

Second, your marriage can make you holy. There’s no other human relationship that has the same sanctifying potential as the marriage relationship. Don’t resist the work God does in your life through your spouse. Embrace it. Allow yourself to be challenged, stretched, helped, and held accountable. And, do the same for your spouse. God intends for your marriage to be a major factor in making you into the image of his son.

Don’t give up. If you keep your eyes focused on the big picture of marriage your marriage could become more than you ever imagined.

Discussion questions

Take a few minutes to reflect on these questions. And, feel free to leave a comment below.

  1. Think back to your wedding. What was it that made that day special or beautiful?
  2. In what ways does your marriage point to Jesus and his love for the Church?
  3. In what ways has your spouse helped you become better? In what ways have you helped your spouse grow?

7 Reasons Weekly Worship is Vital

Central Indiana woke up to our first semi-substantial snowfall of 2016 this morning. And, while I don’t expect many to relate to what I’m about to say, I’m going to say it anyway.

Sunday snow stinks!

Any other day of the week, no problem. If it snows on Tuesday, we cancel school and everyone is happy. If it happens on a Saturday, everyone grabs a sled and heads to the hill at the park. But, to a minister, snow on a Sunday morning is a huge disappointment. It means that a large number of people will miss out on weekly worship. Some people shouldn’t be out in the snow; for senior adults venturing out can be quite risky. For the vast majority of people, heading to church in the snow poses no real threat. Grateful for the convenient excuse, many will simply choose to stay home.

As I was driving to the church in the snow this morning, a verse kept coming to mind:

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching, ([biblegateway passage=”Hebrews 10:24-25″]).

Let’s state the obvious: some have given up the habit of meeting together. Regular church attendance, even for many mature believers, simply isn’t a priority. It’s not a new phenomenon; it’s at least as old as the letter to the Hebrews. But it’s a problem we must continue to guard against.

So, whatever the weather happens to be when you wake up each Sunday morning, consider making weekly worship a priority. Here are 7 reasons weekly worship is vital.

1. Weekly worship is a counter-cultural statement.

The world may scoff at us, cast aspersions on the Church, or look down upon us for believing old myths and wives’ tales from an antiquated book. But we know better. We demonstrate the reality—and utter goodness—of God by deliberately and faithfully participating in the Body of Christ.

2. Our spiritual formation depends upon it.

Think about all you encounter on a Sunday morning: prayer, gospel-centered teaching and preaching, encouraging interactions with fellow believers, communion, people making spiritual decisions, opportunities to serve one another by meeting needs. All of those elements happen on a typical Sunday and all of them are essential for your spiritual formation. Even though you can get bits and pieces of these things elsewhere, there’s no substitute for experiencing them at corporate worship.

3. We meet Jesus in worship.

I belong to a church tradition that sets aside time each week to observe communion, the Lord’s Supper. There’s something deep and mysterious about the experience of meeting Jesus during the quiet moments of communion, along with brothers and sisters in Christ. It is transformational and, therefore, not to be missed. (I chose the word transformational purposefully for I cannot think of a better way to describe it.)

4. Weekly worship clarifies our priorities.

We prioritize what we value. For our friends and neighbors who aren’t yet believers, Sunday is just another day. For us it is far from an ordinary day. It’s an opportunity to set aside the first hours of the brand-new week for what is most important to us. It’s a way to demonstrate that we are God’s people. He’s the one we value most. And, we show that he has first place in our lives by giving him the first few hours of our week.

5. We encourage one another in worship.

Meeting together in worship gives us a regular opportunity to go beyond the small talk that pervades most of our public interactions. We designate time during worship services for purposeful interactions and we linger before and after services to fellowship on a deeper level. Together, we celebrate joys, meet needs, carry burdens, share wisdom, pray, counsel, and care.

6. We can exercise our gifts in worship.

Attending church is about so much more than passive participation, just being there. It’s about active involvement, using the gifts of the Spirit to make the experience excellent for all who are present. Ninety-five percent of what happens at worship has nothing to do with the preacher or worship leader. Worship is such a sweet experience because of the thoughtful Bible teacher, the encouraging nursery worker, the hospitable greeter, the creative musician, the dedicated parking lot attendant, and the wise welcome center worker. As we serve one another, the whole body becomes healthy, it grows, and it is full of love.

7. We build up the church for which Jesus died.

Finally, Jesus died for the church. His death, burial, and resurrection is the cornerstone upon which she is built. He established her. He sustains her. And, one day, he will return to claim her as his bride. Certainly, we can and should do all we can do to build up the church he loves.

What about you?

Is weekly worship a value you hold dear? If so, what impact has it made? If not, what’s keeping you from becoming committed to weekly worship?

My Favorite Resources

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How do I live what I believe?

I have always been interested in the intersection of life and faith, making practical the abstract, attempting to live with meaning, and making sense of what I observe in the world around me. I am convicted that what I believe in my mind and heart affects how I view my ministry, how I love my family, how I interact with culture, and how I serve in this world. While I’ve been continually shaped by many people in my life, friends and mentors alike, I’ve made an effort to continue learning from a number of people whom I’m unlikely to ever meet. Thanks to the blogosphere, there is a wealth of information just waiting to be discovered.

Each morning, there is a fresh crop of articles waiting for me in my feed reader (more on that below). I probably read an average of 30 articles per week. I’m learning so much and being challenged in so many ways that I don’t want to keep all of these resources for myself. I believe these might be just as encouraging to you as they have been to me.

Here are a few of my favorite resources:

The Gospel Coalition — TGC has become my go-to source for solid, biblical perspectives on current events, Christian living, theology, ministry, arts and culture, and more. The archive is vast and new articles appear several times a day. While the site clearly has a Reformed perspective, meaning I may differ on some finer theological points, it is of immense value for Christians of all backgrounds and maturity levels. Here’s an excellent article that deeply impacted my view of salvation.

Storyline Blog — Storyline is the online home of Christian author and leader Donald Miller and an impressive list of writers. The writing is compelling. The topics are relevant, ranging from devotional thoughts to cultural critique to leadership development, and more. An example: Donald Miller’s recent post on spiritual abuse floored me.

Challies.com — Tim Challies is a prolific writer who produces a wide variety of content. He blogs about Christian living, shares resources, and authors a ton of books. In fact, if you’re a reader, his reviews are a goldmine of great recommendations. Again, although he writes from a Reformed perspective, I’m right with him the vast majority of the time. I was challenged by this article recently.

What’s Best Next — Nerd alert! I discovered Matt Perman while attempting to learn more about organization, personal productivity, and time management. I enjoy systems and so does Matt. (You seriously need to check out his series on how to set up your desk.) In addition, What’s Best Next is a great resource for leadership, management, culture, apologetics, and theology.

Seth Godin — Seth is someone who continually challenges me. A thought leader in the business world, I find his perspective to be immensely helpful in the realm of creativity, management, leadership, and, surprisingly, evangelism. I am amazed at the substance—and brevity—of this blog. Here’s a recent example that has huge implications for my work.

These are just a few of my favorite online resources. There are many more. I may share some of them in a future post. I hope these are a blessing to you as you continue to challenge yourself and to grow in faith and life.

What about you? What are your favorite resources?

Bonus: How do I stay up-to-date?

It’s difficult not to miss content when you’re following so many sources online. That’s where a good feed reader comes in handy. I’ve used Feedly on my desktop browser and on my iPhone for years. It’s a can’t-do-without resource.

Responding to Change, Part 2

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Several weeks ago, I wrote about a major change I was preparing to experience. I was leaving the familiar (i.e., safe, predictable, stable, comfortable) for the unknown (i.e., scary, unpredictable, uncertain, uncomfortable). At that time, I observed:

“In my mind, there are two main postures I can choose to embrace toward change. I can be a tortoise. Or, I can be a caterpillar … I want to be a caterpillar.”

In the face of danger, a tortoise withdraws into his protective shell, his little world. He remains still, waits for the danger to pass, and slowly continues at the same pace and in the same direction. A caterpillar, however, lives to change. She always moves toward it, preparing for it, embracing it. And, when the time is right, she emerges, transformed.

On Monday, I began a new career. And, as a bonus, I got a view that’s beautiful enough to make a butterfly jealous! It is refreshing to be on this side of this change. But, one of the unexpected experiences is that I have been contacted by a number of people who are struggling through significant changes of their own. Many of them have asked me the same questions and thought the same thoughts as me. The key question for all of us going through sometimes painful changes is:

Will we chose to be tortoises or caterpillars?

I have made a few observations about responding to change through this process. I want to share them in the hope that they might help some of my friends:

1. Changes can alter you outwardly without altering you inwardly.

When the caterpillar emerges from metamorphosis she looks completely different. But, inside, she’s still made of the same stuff. I entered this season of transition uncertain about what I would experience or what I would look like on the other end. But, I remained absolutely sure about who I was, what I believed, and what was right, true, and good. I have begun anew in entirely different surroundings but I feel just as certain—no, more certain—about God’s love and plan for me as well as how he wants to work through me.

2. Changes open the doors to incredible opportunities.

I’ve never seen a flying caterpillar. Without metamorphosis, a caterpillar would never experience the thrill of flight. That describes my experience. Instead of being dull, boring, and depressing, I count this as one of the most exhilarating seasons in recent memory. Instead of being nervous to meet new people and ask for help (more on that below), I found it thrilling to network, ask questions, secure leads, and make new connections. Each phone conversation, email correspondence, and coffee meeting led to even more connections and left me feeling energized and charged up about all of the opportunities around me. And, all of those conversations have started some great things.

3. Changes are wonderful at providing clarity.

Stability and predictability have the uncanny ability to lull us into complacency, blur our focus, and make us forget what is most important. Changes force you to take inventory of what—that is, who—is most important to you. For me, that answer is simple: it’s my wife, my son, my family and my close friends. This season afforded the most wonderful opportunity to spend huge amounts of time with the people who are in the center of my world. Knowing what is most important is incredibly freeing when you’re going through change. Change provides the gift of clarity.

4. You’re not in it alone.

I’ve never been good at asking for help. This situation has forced me to break through that barrier. And, I’ve been overwhelmed by the willingness—even eagerness—of people to do whatever they could to help. Family and friends prayed, fasted, and offered godly advice. Network connections shared wisdom and sent letters of introduction. Connected friends stuck out their own necks to provide their endorsements of my character and ability. And my wife—Oh, wow, my wife!—has been a force of nature, going above and beyond to do everything within her power to aid me through this process.

Change is difficult. Nobody chooses to go through painful and uncertain transitions. But, when they happen, we must realize we’ve been given an incredible gift … if we chose to be a caterpillar and not a tortoise.

What about you?

What changes are you experiencing? What are you learning?

On Risk

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I’m not naturally a risk-taker. But, I have taken risks. This was especially true when I was a kid.

I never once wore a helmet while riding a bike. I can remember going over the handlebars a number of times while riding at the abandoned BMX track we found at a local park. We’d go flying over jumps without even thinking about safety. I remember playing dodge ball with my friends at church. We’d find the darkest room we could and hurl playground balls at one another with only my friend’s strobe light turned on. I remember playing “Frogger” (yes, I’m in my mid 30s) with my friends as they swung back and forth on the swing set. I remember being knocked off my feet because of a poorly timed sprint from one end to the other. I remember shooting bottle rockets at passing cars, riding rope swings into the creek, and shooting BB guns at my friend in his backyard.

I wasn’t reckless or crazy. I was a kid.

It’s the same today. The kids in our neighborhood make me laugh because they do some of the same silly stuff I used to do. They perform back flips off the swings in our yard. They throw their dad’s hunting knife at a tree, trying to embed the blade in the trunk. They put a bike ramp on the side of the hill, ride over it, and end up on their backs. They do crazy stunts on their skateboards. They jump off the monkey bars at the park. And, they live to tell about it! The only difference? Now they wear helmets.

Looking back, I suppose taking risks comes natural to kids. Somehow we survive.

Recently, my wife shared an article with me that made me reflect upon the risks I took as a kid. It’s a long read; but it’s worth it. This is an extreme example but it’s worth reflecting upon. The premise, if you don’t have time to read it, is that today’s parents overprotect their children. It details the decades-old cultural trend toward over-protection. The article illustrates the trend by describing a park in North Wales called The Land. It’s essentially a trash dump where kids can explore freely with only minimal supervision. It sounds awesome!

The article makes a vivid point, even if it is extreme.

Just the other day, I urged my son to put on his helmet, “Because we love you too much to let something bad happen to you.” Why am I so careful with my son? Do I really think a ride around the cul-de-sac would bring about his demise? No. Did I freak him out? Possibly. The article made me question my zeal to protect my son. I’m not going to stop protecting him, but I’m determined to find ways to let him risk—a little bit.

I believe there is an important reason to let our kids experience a little more risk in their lives:

It teaches them about their own capabilities. I wouldn’t have known that I could fly 15 feet through the air on a bike and land successfully without maiming myself if I hadn’t tried it. I wouldn’t have known I could dive head-first from the high dive without doing a belly smacker if I hadn’t jumped. But, in those situations I learned that I have the capacity to be a courageous person. And, that’s a trait that has proven itself useful in my adult life. I want the same to be said for my son.

Regardless of what we got ourselves into as kids or what we allow our kids to get into today, I believe it’s important to reflect upon the posture we take toward them. Maybe we should back off—just a bit—and allow our kids to try some things out. Maybe we should allow them to venture around the corner without something soft protecting all of their vulnerabilities or multiple sets of eyes monitoring their every move. That doesn’t mean we relinquish our duty to protect our kids, just that we give them a slightly larger radius and a little less help. Within reason, we might even actively facilitate some risk for our kids, allow them to respond, and help them debrief what they learned.

And, as adults, maybe we need to dig deep and allow ourselves to experience a bit of that risk-taking spirit we used to know. After all, there is so much more each of us might accomplish with just a pinch of risk.

What about you and your kids? What could you accomplish if you were willing to risk?