- Fasting from something that hurts your relationships is always worth it
- Don't under-estimate what a young person can do (or who they can influence)
- We grow closer in our relationship with God when we cut out the extra noise
- When families make a commitment to place "WE" over "ME", the whole family wins
- Just when you think something is over, it usually isn't
FASTING FROM SOMETHING
The reason you decide to avoid something is that you realize how it may be hurting you or others. Smoking, drugs, addictions, even media have a negative impact on our relationships. Lori and I noticed that many parents at restaurants and stores have been handing their kids electronic devices to watch movies or cartoons or play games while they are involved in conversations or activities with other adults... and we have also noticed that many young people have a really hard time carrying on normal conversations with their peers, let alone other adults. I think our tendency to try to "keep our kids entertained" so that they don't interrupt us is a bigger problem than we realize. I remember getting in trouble with my brothers when we started being a distraction or started to act up when my parents were trying to talk... you know what I learned by getting in trouble? I learned to pay attention to other people and not to spit spitwads at others when people are talking. Parents: it's ok to put your kids in situations where they will probably not act perfectly... and it's even wiser to remove things from our lives that distract or hurt our relationships with others, and God!
DON'T UNDERESTIMATE TEENS
Teenagers want to do something that matters. They want to make a difference. They are also incredibly influential and inspiring. When we hear of a 30-year-old making a decision to avoid certain media, we think "that's interesting... good for them", or "what a weirdo". But when a teenager makes the same decision, we think, "That's amazing! I wish I could do something like that!" There are countless stories of students who have jumped into this fast and have impacted their friends, their teachers, their parents, and others. We need to expect more from teenagers, not less.
CUT OUT NOISE; GROW CLOSER TO GOD
I'm not sure I have to get into this one. It's kind of a "no-brainer". But I do think that while we know this is true, how often do we actually do it? It's like when we want to lose some weight and we know we need to avoid certain foods and exercise... and then we still grab a tub of ice cream and sit and binge-watch our favorite show. We need to take time to cut out the things that are hurting our relationship with God... or we won't grow closer to God. I guess we have to decide whether our media choices and our time choices are more important than the things we need to do to grow closer to God.
WE OVER ME TIME
I've heard this every year from families... "This past month of the fast was amazing! We did it together and it seems like there was less stress. We had so much fun together." But by the end of April, they are stressed out and tired. I know this because it has happened in my house for over 16 years. And while I'm not advocating that we should always fast from media distractions (although maybe I should and I'm just being selfish), I think there is incredible value in focusing on "we" over "me". It is so incredibly selfish for someone to say "I just need some 'me' time." I get it... we all need time away from chaos, complaining, crying, and everything else that comes from being a human on planet earth with billions of other people... but parents, you need to hear this: WHEN YOU HAVE DECIDED TO HAVE SEX, YOU DECIDED TO GIVE UP "ME" FOR "WE". And when you have kids, you have a responsibility to put your family above yourself. If you don't, you will regret it... trust me. I have heard more stories than I can count... I gave up a lot of things I like to do while my kids were at home, and I don't regret not doing those "me" things. I stopped playing golf; I said "no" to side jobs or extra responsibilities that would have taken time away from my kids and family; I even cut out working out every day (I play basketball 1 day a week for 2 1/2 hours) in order to make sure I was there for my kids. I learned how to coach softball. I went on field trips. I worked on projects... and while it sounds like I was amazing, I still see areas where I regret focusing on "me" over "we". I wish we had played more board games together. I wish we had gone on more hikes and walks. I wish I had prayed more often with my kids and wife.
JUST WHEN YOU THINK IT'S OVER
We are wrapping up year 16... and it's been an awesome adventure. Over 400 students, 400 families, nearly 10,000 sponsors, have been a part of this yearly event. It has brought in over $250,000 in money raised to send kids on mission trips and camps. But even more important, is that teens and families have grown closer to each other, and to God. Just because it's April and everyone is "back to normal" in their routine, doesn't mean that the fast is over. Prayerfully, we called people to spend time with God... and if they did that, hopefully, they have a habit of finding time to spend with God, daily. Many of these kids will be involved in mission trips to help point others to Jesus... and that's an eternal outcome that we can't quantify. People throughout the year come across this website and read the posts from kids... and they are inspired to do something about their relationship with God... how awesome is that? Just when you think it's over...
Thank you all for another great year on this adventure... I can't wait to see how God uses this challenge over the next year!