This past weekend The Dale headed north for our annual church retreat. I’m used to participating in such “retreats” – when churches or Christian sub-groups typically head into the Muskoka’s for rest and relaxation, hoping to encounter something of the Divine while away from the hustle and bustle of the city. But this was my first one with The Dale, and the first in which my entire family of six participated in.
It was a new experience for us as a family unit, and although I was excited at the opportunity to grow in relation with our church family, I was also really looking forward to taking the kids out on the water. I figured the kids would have a blast as mum and dad took them out in the canoe, their eyes soaking in the wonder of the water, trees, and northern sky. If I’m honest, it was also a proud papa moment – a chance to show my kids what their old man can do out on the water! I made sure to inspect the canoe’s thoroughly as Frances (my wife) fitted the kids with their life-jackets. We had yet to make our way towards the water when my daughter came forth with this request: “Daddy, can I have an oar to row?”
In all my planning and expectations about how great this little excursion would be, I hadn’t given this question any thought prior. This was to be, simply, a time for dad to lead out and lead on, and to give the kids an experience they would remember, after all. But as I processed the request I quickly realized how much we adults get to learn from children, and when it comes to the intimacy of the family unit, it is a great privilege as a parent to learn from our kids. They didn’t want simply to tag along, they wanted the full canoeing experience. They wanted the whole nine yards.
This is just one character trait of young people that I admire so much. They will only accept being taken for a ride for so long. Sooner rather than later, they will clamour for participation. They want to be part of what’s going on. I find one of the temptations that comes with growing older (perhaps, at least for me) is to act like I am indifferent towards things that I should care more about, or might even experience real joy through. If a friend had previously invited me out canoeing, I likely would have responded something along the lines of, “meh, I could take it or leave it.” How much do we lose out on because we downplay the need for our participation in this life? This is a key question for the Church and for much of our western culture at large. How much do others lose out on because of our passivity towards the things that matter? How much joy are we passing on? Let us take on the practice of our young people to jump in and participate in the things that matter, the things that bring joy, and the things that lead to eternal life.
After getting my daughter a paddle, we went out to the dock so I could teach them how to row: “down, back, up, and around” I repeated. (The teaching does go both ways of course).
I raise 100% of the funding needed for me to be able to work at The Dale Ministries in the Parkdale neighbourhood of Toronto. If you would like to support me financially, click this direct link to our website https://www.thedale.org/donate/ and designate me (Pete Nojd) as the recipient.