I recently visited Europe. Switzerland and Italy to be specific. I had discovered early on of my Swiss ancestry from my family tree, and I was an American by birth, at age 31 I became a Christian by faith. But who was I really, I mean what defined ME ?
I was/am also a father, a husband, a brother, an uncle, a friend and a son. At forty-one I have gathered more than my fair share of life experiences and personal convictions and all of those roles, beliefs and relationships have helped in significant ways to establish my identity.
My life behavior is directly impacted by what I believe my identity to be. If I believe I’m simply an accident of nature or a soulless biological entity without purpose or significance… than my life choices will reflect those beliefs.
Its becoming more evident that we as parents of faith, need to be increasingly intentional about protecting our kids identities. We need to remind and remember for our families who they really are regardless of where we find ourselves.
After our trip to Europe (Switzerland and Italy) I was overwhelmed temporarily by the beauty and breadth of the diverse cultures, beliefs and customs. In that week of European immersion, it was a temptation for me to abandon my old-established life and to simply absorb and reflect the environment or culture I found myself in.
When In Zürich, I started to feel I would be just as comfortable morphing into a classic Swiss citizen as I was being a laid back Tennessean. When in Switzerland I found myself becoming like my environment… extra polite, mentally focused, punctual to a fault.. on time with the trains, precise in my planning and balancing my emotions and mind with the beauty of the orderly culture I was in.
When we flew into Rome airport a few days later I felt the shock of culture transition. The Italians are loud, messy and loose with their schedules, the complete opposite of the Swiss. After only a day of Rome, I found myself switching quickly from Swiss to Italian in my personality as I adopted a more relaxed and artistic perspective on life, much less concerned with the time of day and more on the next great cafe’ to discover or fountain to photograph.
My recent European immersion experience was a powerful reminder of the incredible pressure that our kids are facing everyday when they go out our front doors… When they go to public school, or ride the bus, they have to adjust rapidly to the chaos and urgency of their teen world. In order for them to “fit – in” at school, they are forced to at least outwardly adapt their language, their attitudes, postures and even behavior to avoid un-wanted attention or rejection. In the teen world of ever-changing popularity, styles and fads…maintaining the status quo is required above all.
I am reminded of the need to reinforce to my own children the truth of their identities, and to remind them of how much more they are then simply a reflection of whatever environment they find themselves in. The temptation is to assume they will sort this out on their own, to trust that our safe homes will offset the dangers of popular culture. I don’t believe that is true anymore.
If we don’t repeatedly and intentionally remind our kids of who “they are”… someone else will.
As families of faith, we risk loosing our children’s identities to the environments they live in and by failing to take the time to remind them of their eternal significance, unique purpose and priceless worth…they are going to be severely tempted to believe otherwise and assume an identity that is not their own.
I loved visiting Europe, I loved experiencing it all… and it was amazing, but it did serve to provide a practical and personal reminder for me to help “keep my family in between the lines and on the road of life”.