It’s 9 a.m. and I’ve already had one student in my office crying! It started out innocently enough, as Lindsay thought she would just drop by my office and touch base on a project that she and the rest of the Ministry team who plans our monthly service projects wanted to do this semester. It was a good idea: they would provide an after-school tutoring program for middle school kids three days a week. She had already spoken with the principal and he was fully supportive, as our small UM-related college has a good relationship with our school district. The only catch was that we needed to give them a flyer TODAY so that they could include in the progress reports that they would send next week. She thought that she better “run it past me” so that she could write on the flyer which room they were going to meet in. I immediately began asking her questions (not all at once, even though I wanted to!): Have you got people who are willing to be tutors? How many students can we provide one-on-one tutoring for? What will we do if we have more kids than we can handle-will we turn them away at the door, or will we supervise those that show up no matter what! Will we provide training for the tutors? What about parents-do we need to have a parents meeting to tell them what are expectations are? After several of my questions, I saw her eyes fill with tears and the hand writing was on the wall: when the going got tough, she wanted to quit!Lindsay’s enthusiastic zeal for helping struggling teens soon crumpled before my very eyes. She felt deflated. I felt mean. I can understand her feelings: she just wants to do a good deed for our community and she can’t because of all of the red tape. I didn’t intend to squash her zeal, but due to all the questions that I knew would be asked of me as the director of the program, I knew that I better help my student learn that good intentions is unfortunately not enough to support a program. She was ready to advertise, but all we could advertise was an idea. As much as I didn’t want to bring up issues of liability, administrative red tape and community relationships, I knew that I had to bring up these very tricky subjects. I wanted Lindsay to see that this wasn’t about me being fearful about too many barriers for the program, this was about Lindsay learning how to navigate adult, grown-up decisions, taking responsibility for all of the various aspects and being willing to forge through the difficulties. By the time that I was done with my questions and she saw that it was much more complicated than she had thought at first, she said with a tear, “I’ll just call the principal back and tell him we can’t do it.”
Now I’m feeling deflated! I didn’t want her to bail on the idea; I wanted her to forge through the difficulties! She left my office after hearing my pep talk about “dreaming big dream but being willing to be faithful until they come to fruition,” but sadly I don’t think she believed it. I’ve seen this in her before, and in other students as well. When the going gets tough, they quit. Why is this? My parents sure wouldn’t let me get away with that! If I committed to something, I was going to see it through, even if I hated every minute of it! I even remember sitting at the dinner table for 1 hour as a kid just to eat 1 brussel sprout! But I’m not so sure that the students these days (man I sound old! And I’m only 30!) have the ability to persevere. I hear of students withdrawing from a class at a whim, quitting their part time job because they can’t get off every time they want, or going home every other weekend to get their laundry done and restock on food. And don’t even get me started on what my friends in the world of Residence Life have to say about parents! We all know the term helicopter parents, parents who hover over every aspect of their kids’ lives and not being afraid to call professors, campus ministers, even presidents of institutions if they don’t like the answers they’re given. Are Lindsay’s parents to blame for her unwillingness to see a good idea come to fruition through hard work? Probably not, but somewhere along the line, Lindsay hasn’t learned that instant gratification (and instant customer service) aren’t realistic for life.
Clearly this has implications for the Christian life. We can’t truly become disciples of Jesus if we quit every time a spiritual discipline gets uncomfortable. We can’t plead ignorance to God when we say, “So what if I sinned…I had good intentions!” When we grab a hold of Christ’s mission in ourselves and in the world, we have to be willing to die to ourselves and take up HIS cross, daily. Oh Lindsay, this is my prayer for you: be willing to let ideas die, but only if they’re your ideas. Hold on to the dreams given to you from God and be patient and diligent enough to keep doing what God’s called you to do. Put another way, “Do not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time you will reap a harvest if you do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9)
For an article on Helicopter Parents: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9121823
To see the new Orientation Magazine, the UM magazine for first year students: http://www.gbhem.org/orientation/home.html
Ashlee Alley is the Director of Discipleship Southwestern and Coordinator of Campus Ministry at Southwestern College in Winfield, KS.
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