Tuesday, October 7, 2014


I wrote this on my plane ride to New Orleans, hours before Sophia and Hanna were born

As North Americans, we certainly do love our programs. We see some sort of need or problem and our forte has been to perfect a series of steps to detect, evaluate, assess and critique in order to respond, address and consequently provoke change. We hear about children dying of preventable diseases in Africa and we create sponsorship programs to meet a need. A rise in adolescent suicide rates? We create a catchy publicity endeavor and a 24-hour hotline to boot. Our kids have needs that we can’t meet? Church programs. We can’t lose weight? God bless Curves and Biggest Loser initiatives. Too much trash in Texas? We accoridnly all learned that we “DON’T MESS WITH TEXAS”. We love programs. Most often they are very appropriate and quite necessary. Considering this culture of programs that we have so efficiently and globally implemented, I have been thinking about the true needs that I see around me. Working with kids and youth at an orphanage, you are exposed to a wide variety of needs, and we have created and implemented effective and comprehensive programs. Yet herein lies my worry. Have we concluded that our universal response to the needs of this generation is to simply implement some sort of program?

As we draw close to a season of transition where we will no longer be in charge of this amazing house full of crazy boys, I think how I will no longer be the person that they come to for everything from advice about girls, trouble with trigonometry to getting a roll of toilet paper. It’s brought me to evaluate the way I have responded to the needs of these teenage boys. It has become easy for me to pinpoint their shortcomings even drawing conclusions about correlations of certain behaviours with specific psychological traumas they have experienced, yet how many times has my answer to these issues simply been to put them in some program and hope for the best? While thinking about all the practical implications of this struggle, the one word that resonates in my head and my heart as I consider all of this is simple: Connection. Authentic, unconditional, enduring and profound connection. What these boys ultimately need and have needed all along, is a connection with someone. It is now common knowledge that a baby bonds with the mother in developmentally critical ways in the first few years of life; likewise with the father and even with grandparents, aunts and uncles, siblings etc.... As these children grow up and evolve we come to believe that an increase in maturity must equate an increase in involvement in excellent programs. We generally lose sight of what was once the most important aspect of their development. That connection. I am convinced that this connection continues to be the most important part. I have said this to many parents in many contexts and repeat it here (as my father has pointed out to me many of times, I can sometimes come across as excessively idealistic): In parenting there are no guarantees. It is not as if I could follow some set of steps or become involved in THE right programs or schools in order to guarantee the success of my children. But, in my experience in parenting teenage boys directly and indirectly over the past few years I have come to believe that we shouldn’t and cannot place our hope in this culture’s concept of success. On the contrary, I believe that success is quantified by the thing that our souls crave and ultimately need more than any other factor: that authentic connection. Simple, yet extremely complex. I believe that deep within us is a God-willed inlet purposed to be filled by human connection. I also believe that this inlet is mirrored by an even deeper and more rich need to be known by our creator and to come to know Him. So, as I sit on this plane, flying to meet my two baby girls who will apparently be making their debut in a few hours, I reflect upon this need for connection. To be connected to our creator and to be connected to others. And although there are minutes, hours, and well, even days when I don’t want to be in the same vicinity as these hormonal teenage boys let alone be connected to them, I ponder how our heavenly Father must feel about me sometimes! Regardless of the mess that I am, he remains connected. He remains close. I think we ought to do the same.

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