I can hardly believe it - I'm leaving home. Three months from now I'll be packing up my little Civic Wagon and saying goodbye to my parents and five younger siblings. I don't think the weight of it has really hit me yet. I'm used to going away on short trips. "See you next week!" This is different. I'm going away forever (at least as far into forever as I can see) to start a new life on the other side of the country.
The move is bittersweet. I know it's God's will and my parents fully support it, but it's still hard. I get teary-eyed over funny things - my little brother barging into my room each morning, coming home from work and seeing my mom framed in the window, chatting on the phone with a friend. The scenes seem to play in slow motion, reminding me that I'm leaving them behind.
You've heard the line before: "You never know what you've got till you lose it." I never realized how true this statement is until now. I've taken so many things about my parents for granted. Lately I've been reflecting on some of the things I appreciate most about the way they raised me. There are three things that I've been especially grateful for recently.
They raised me without television.
My parents both grew up in homes where the television was constantly on. It was on during dinner, it was the background noise throughout the day. When my folks got married they decided they would raise their kids in a TV-free home.
This might seem like a funny thing to be thankful for, and there were times in my life when I wasn't appreciative. I used to long for Saturday morning cartoons and feel out of it when I was the only kid at church who didn't know every sitcom theme song by heart. But my gratefulness for this simple decision has grown over the years. As I look back on the countless evenings we spent reading as a family, that flashing box seems a sorry substitute. Ramona Quimby, Ralph Moody, and the children who visited Narnia kept us enthralled instead.
My parents placed a priority on doing things as a family, things that engaged the mind and allowed us to share life. People ask if the reason for not having a TV was the bad programming. Certainly that's part of it, but the primary problem with TV in their opinion, is not the bad things that are watched, it's the good things you're not doing while you watch - the books that go unread and the stories that go untold. I'm thankful my parents chose books and conversations over television.
They taught me to paddle my own boat.
When I was fourteen I wanted to be an actor. Thankfully, this aspiration was short-lived. But I'll never forget the conversation I had with my dad during this time. I was cooking up schemes to one day be a star in Hollywood, when my father sat me down and said, "Son, I never want you to be in a position where you're going around knocking on people's doors asking to be a part of what they're doing. I don't want you to pursue a career where you're waiting for someone else to give you the 'big break.' If you want to start your own Christian acting troupe, go for it, but I don't want you to be the kind of person who sits around waiting for someone else to make things happen for you."
I'm still discovering the value of this attitude. I wasn't always teachable, but my dad's entrepreneurial and adventurous spirit rubbed off on me. Armed with it I've run head-long into the diverse pursuits of everything from a pen-pal company, to videography, to magazine publishing. All these endeavors stemmed from a simple conviction that I didn't have to wait for my ship to come in, I could pick up the oars in my little boat and start paddling. My dad taught me that.
They were willing to let go.
The move I mentioned earlier is to Gaithersburg, Maryland. For the past year God has been leading me in a new direction. He's been drawing my heart to the local church. So I'm laying down my pursuit of magazine publishing to learn how my gifts can be used in the context of a local body of believers. The pastors at Covenant Life Church will be discipling and training me. It's sort of an "apprenticeship" in ministry. The tough part in all this is that Covenant Life is several thousand miles away from my current home in Gresham, Oregon.
I could not have pursued this venture without my parent's willingness to see God's will done. Our family's comfort is not their primary concern. I'm their son, but first I'm God's servant. That example has been an inspiration. The humility my mom and dad have shown in allowing me to pursue this new direction is equally inspiring. I listened while my father told the pastor I'll be serving under that there are some things he can't teach me. "I believe you can instruct Josh in ways he wouldn't get if he stayed here."
Thanks, Mom and Dad, for raising me in the fear and admonition of the Lord; for modeling by example what it means to serve Him. And finally, for being my cheering section as I set out on this adventure of life.