I was stuck. No way around it. I had been flying down the interstate at 70 MPH when I heard a snap and the sound of metal grinding against pavement. Not exactly what you want to hear on a road trip.
I had just been to the mechanic a few weeks ago, and he’d given me a long list of things I needed to get fixed but couldn’t afford. As I took the next exit and pulled into a gas station I tried to guess which one it could be. A quick glance under the car didn’t look good.
I saw some sort of metal shell dragging the ground, and I had no idea what it was. I can put gas in my car and change a flat tire. But this? This was way out of my league.
What exactly was hanging off my car and how important was it? Was the car still drivable or would I need a tow truck? I had no clue. On my own, I would have been stuck there all day.
But I didn’t have all day. I was on my way to a family ministry conference and had about ten minutes to spare. So, immediately, I texted my uncle Brian. He’s spent years working on cars. He’d know exactly what to do.
Sure enough he texted back and told me it was a heat shield. The car was drivable if I could just break it off. After about fifteen minutes of kicking it and whacking it with a tire iron, I did it. I got unstuck and back on the road!
As I was heading off down the interstate, I realized how much this adventure reminded me of my journey as a parent. There are just some times as a dad I get stuck. My kids face a challenge I don’t know how to deal with. They need my help, but I have no idea what to do.
It’s in those times, I realize that I need someone else. Not just another dad like me, but someone farther along in their journey. I need someone who’s been where I’ve been and lived to tell the story. And so do you.
In 1 Corinthians 11:1 Paul encouraged the church to “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” In Philippians 4:9 he echoes this call to imitation when he says, “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice.”
Throughout the New Testament, we see this pattern of copying the life of Christ as we see it in wise and mature believers and then passing on that example to those who are coming up in the faith behind us. In other words, if we want to disciple our kids well, we need to be discipled ourselves.
A few years ago, a friend of mine challenged me on this. He said, “You’re trying to do this on your own. Who is investing in you?” I knew he was right. So I began praying for God to send me a seasoned believer, that person who was farther down the road than me, who could help me go where I never could go on my own.
On the way home from work that day, I ran into Tom. He’s a retired pastor who lives on my street. He’s raised his kids and is a grandfather now. As a parent and ministry veteran, he’s seen it all. Most importantly, though, this guy’s sweet spirit just reminds me of Jesus. So, I invited him to lunch and told him I wanted to learn from him. I wanted to copy the life of Christ I see in him.
Now, instead of being stuck, I’m learning from someone who’s been down this road before. I ask for prayer and soak up Tom’s hard-earned wisdom. I’m honest about my challenges and failures. Mostly I just do a lot of listening. Tom doesn’t have all the answers, but he asks great questions and helps me to listen to God and find a way forward.
So who can you learn from? Who looks like Jesus to you? Who do you know who has a life worth imitating and can help you as a parent? For you, maybe this means joining a discipleship huddle or a spiritual mentoring group. Or maybe it’s something less structured, just an ongoing series of lunches, like I have with my friend Tom.
Whatever it looks like in your life, don’t put it off any longer. Make the phone call. Send the text. Reach out to that person who can help you take a next step. Some day your kids will thank you for it as you pass the baton of faith onto them.