Sometimes God speaks to me from the strangest places. I’ve been mulling some big parenting issues lately, namely how my family should look not so much like every other family and how I can raise warriors and not self-centered adults who successfully slide into the culture and disappear.
Last week God sent a movie home from a friend’s house with my son. I’d seen it, but never with my current eyes on. The movie is The Incredibles, and if you haven’t seen it, here’s a quick synopsis:
Dad is a superhero working at a boring, non-superhero job. Mom is a superhero raising three kids while setting all her own hero abilities aside. Kids are a mess–one in trouble at school, the other painfully shy and frightened. Dad finally sneaks out and starts to do superhero stuff on the side, and Mom and kids go look for him when he finds trouble. Suddenly the kids see Mom and Dad doing their thing, and suddenly these kids are encouraged to do their own superhero things to help keep the family alive. Dad is saved; the world is saved; and the family has a purpose–they save the world together now–resulting in each member becoming more settled and confident.
Imagine children are vines. In the first scenario, the parents were behind the vines, giving them the world and cheering them on, but the vines squirmed and grew with no real direction. Worse, the direction they took determined the direction the family took. Way too much pressure for a vine.
In scenario two, the parents, with their wisdom and talents, had become a trellis. The family direction was set, and it was UP. The little vines still had plenty of freedom to poke in and around and through the trellis, but there was always leadership and purpose given to them.
So, what do I see as application for this Disney movie? Here it is:
1. Know your gifts–both spiritual and general– as well as those of your spouse.
2. Put those gifts into action. Sometimes that means a child has to forego a party or a class, because someone out there needs help that only his gifted parent can provide. Sometimes it means a spouse breaks a date for the same reason.
3. Help children find their gifts, and then help them to use them. Be excited when they use their spiritual gifts, even more excited than when they make the soccer team or enter the science fair. Using a gift for God has eternal reward, unlike a trophy that will sit in a closet.
4. If all the family gifts can be used in tandem, praise God. And then use the family gifts in tandem! Choose individual extracurricular activities for the children based on this overarching family purpose.
I don’t want to be a soccer mom as much as I want to be a warrior mom. I belong to a kingdom with different values, different leadership, different everything from the world in which I live right now. Why on earth would I want to blend in and look like everyone else and parent like everyone else when I’m trying to raise soldiers? Someday they’ll belong perfectly to the perfect kingdom. But today probably isn’t that day, and I need to prepare them for today.
I don’t really do this well myself, not as I should. So, that’s a goal of mine, to look for ways to use my gifts and encourage my family to find and use theirs. In Christ, through the Holy Spirit, we’re a family of superheros. When we try to be otherwise, we’re just a collection of broken people going through some pretty pointless motions.
If nothing else, rent The Incredibles and see what you think. I bet now you’ll see it as a really colorful, fun guide about living a family life of purpose and spirit. I wish all guides were so enjoyable. (And I sort of wish I had the gifts of invisibility or super speed, but those don’t seem to be listed in Corinthians or Romans.)