“Oh no, oh no!” were the words I heard, along with a scream, as I woke up out of a dead sleep. I opened my eyes to find us heading toward a massive semi-trailer truck at 65 mph. It was the last day of our yearly snowboard pilgrimage to Mammoth Mountain, in California. My wife, Karie, was driving, and we were headed home. We were on HWY 395, about 20 minutes outside of Bishop, and just a few miles from the spot where you can often see herds of elk.
Startled by my wife’s scream, I awoke as my heart raced from a virtual 0 to 60. In front of us loomed a Mack truck. There was nothing I could do. In that moment, Karie had to make a decision that our family’s lives depended on. She had two options. She could slam on the brakes and hope to weave back in behind the truck that was to our right, praying that he would not also brake; or she could hit the gas...
Today’s parenting is a lot like driving. Your family is on this amazing journey. Navigating the road of parenting is not for the faint of heart. Each bend and turn balances beauty and danger. There are driving snows, steep grades and icy roads. Mothers and fathers are called to navigate this highway called life. It is their job to get their kids safely from point A to point B, eventually giving them the keys to drive life’s journey on their own.
That day on 395, Karie decided to use the gas pedal. With our hearts in our throats, our daughters Lily, Lucy and I held on as Karie accelerated and swerved back into our lane, narrowly avoiding the bumper of the steel machine heading toward us.
In the moments right after this near tragedy, I had a thought. With my hands still tingling from a rush of blood, awareness came to my head. It was one of those God understandings where God takes a happening and teaches a truth. This is a paraphrase of what God spoke to my heart in those moments: Sometimes the best defensive driving tool is the gas pedal. I want you to be gas-pedal parents, and your children gas-pedal kids. I want you to focus on engagement more than disengagement.
In Give Your Kids The Keys I write about the fear-based, brake-pedal parenting culture that has invaded the church. Rather then seeing our kid’s futures full of God’s presence and provision, many parents see only potential dangers. These dangers include the Internet, sex, drugs, public school Harry Potter and Twilight’s vampires. Many a Christian parents answer to these fears has been to rapture their children from the culture, doing their best to make sure their kids never have to process or deal with anything that challenges their faith.
One of the keys to creating a sustainable faith in children is through the testing of their faith. When you remove testing, you remove sustainability (See James 1:2-4) While controversial; we believe the public school system offers a better environment for creating sustainable world changing believers then many of the alternative schooling forms that have come into vogue in many Christian parenting circles.
It’s no secret that 60-80% of all believing children are abandoning the faith at the magic age of 18. The question is why? While I spent a whole book seeking an answer to that question, I will offer a couple of thoughts here. Firstly, we have removed challenge from the equation. The hope is that if we eliminate any faith-testing environments and fill our kids up with knowledge of right and wrong, our kids will be able to sustain a thriving faith once they leave home. History is proving this untrue. You don’t prepare for war in padded cells.
Secondly, we have not offered our kids much more then rote knowledge of Jesus. We have told them that Jesus died on the cross and rose again and then challenged them no further then going out, sharing their toys and being good boys and girls. Sure, our kids know all the Bible’s stories, but have they ever prayed for the sick, looked into the orphans eyes or been challenged with a vision larger then themselves. Rather then exposing our children to a radical action filled life in Christ, we have settled for raising sober virgins who get into good colleges. As long as your kids meet those criteria you can be guaranteed of much congratulations from your parenting peers. But will your kids really know Jesus?
Gas-pedal parents are willing to look their fears in the face and say, “To hell with you.” With faith in the sustaining power of the Savior, these parents are committed to immersing their kids into a full life in Christ. They are willing to let their kids be in a culture while discipling them to live above it. They believe the real Jesus is more attractive then anything this world can offer.
 “Most Twenty-somethings Put Christianity on the Shelf Following Spiritually Active Teen Years,” the Barna Group, September 11, 2006. http://www.barna.org/teens-next- gen-articles/147-most-twentysomethings-put-christianity-on-the-shelf-following-spiritually-active-teen-years.