The teen boys in the raft had learned how to paddle and seemed ready to show off. It felt like I was playing fetch with a puppy and I sort of was. I threw a big, orange ball into the river way ahead of us and shouted: “Go get it!” and the boys started paddling like mad. I helped by steering the boat, but they instinctively knew that they had to drive to the ball.
A few minutes after picking up the ball, I threw it again; but this time instead of downstream, I threw it upstream and shouted: “Get the ball!” Okay, now that I’m typing it, it does seem like I was treating them like a dog, but I had a reason for this. The boys seemed a bit uncertain about what they were going to do. Some boys suggested that we don’t do anything since the ball would float down to us. They soon discovered that we were also floating the same speed as the ball. Then some boys told me to turn the boat toward the ball and they started to paddle for all they were worth. All the boys joined in. Interestingly, we weren’t able to paddle upriver to the ball, but we were able to hold our position enough for the ball to come to us.
Sounds like a silly game, but I was trying to make a point. There are some goals which we need to drive toward, and others that we need to make sure we are holding in the right place and waiting for.
Most people who talk to teens about goals focus on what I call “driving” goals. These goals include: finishing high school, sports victories, graduating from college, a good job, a fantastic family, riches, and fame. As I talked to the boys, they also had goals like having great friends.
I asked them a question that I think is important for teens and adults to think about:
What goals do you need to drive toward and what goals do you need to actively wait for?
Both driving to goals and waiting for goals take effort and a lot of energy. The boys knew that simply drifting didn’t get the job done.
As we talked, the boys shared about their friendships; how they tried to get someone to like them or include them in a group by working to be liked. They also shared how annoying it is for someone to try to drive or push a friendship. It was turning into a great conversation, but then I raised the bar a bit. What about girls? Is that something you drive for or do the hard work of waiting? Now the answers were mixed and I don’t have space to capture all their thoughts. What was clear was that it’s easy to lose track of who you are when you really want someone to like you, and that love is built on acceptance and authenticity. It takes a lot of work to be the very best ‘you’ in a world that wants you to be like someone else.
At this point, one of the boys shared that we really have to drive in our relationship with Christ. Not quite what I was expecting on our raft trip, but he went on to say that he had to pray, read his Bible, and do good things for God to accept him. I asked him who did all the work for him to be saved. He thought for a while and said, “Jesus.” So, if Jesus did all the work, does that mean we are supposed to drift, drive, or wait?
It was at this point that we remembered that Jesus wasn’t like that ball. The ball just floats along, but Jesus came to us. Once He gets to us, He drives us to love people more and causes us to wait in faith for a lot of things.
Pretty amazing what can happen on the river when playing fetch with a bunch of boys!
As you talk to your kids about goals, I encourage you to find ways to talk about not only what the goals are, but what needs to happen to get those goals. Better yet, rather than just talking, why don’t you find a way to experience it before talking.[reminder]Which do you find harder, driving for goals or waiting on goals? Why?[/reminder]