It’s been almost a week since I drove to the parking lot of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in downtown Grand Rapids and dropped off my daughter to go to the Episcopal Youth Event, fondly known by many as EYE.
Over a thousand Episcopal youth and their adult chaperones have been experiencing the Episcopal Youth Event in Oklahoma City all week long. They’ve heard the preaching of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry. They’ve walked the exhibit hall featuring much of what the Episcopal Church has to offer. They’ve prayed Compline together late at night. They’ve shared meals, learned from the church’s leaders, and even had a street party. (For lots more details, pictures, and videos check out the Facebook page.)
When I was a teenager, I wasn’t part of any religion. Now that I’m a mom, I want my kids to feel at home in their faith community and also inspired to serve God in all the world. I sent my daughter to the Episcopal Youth Event with hope that she would be embraced, engaged, and encouraged by our church.
When I say “I sent my daughter,” I mean I told her, “This summer you’re going to the Episcopal Youth Event.” Like Sunday worship, EYE was an expectation, not an option. She’s fifteen; she didn’t know enough to decide if she wanted to go. Once she got there, I figured, she could decide if she liked it. My job, as her mom, was to get her there. (This works in our family; your mileage may vary.)
But despite the fact that I didn’t hesitate to use my authority to get her to Oklahoma, I didn’t want to be the pushy mom who attempts to live vicariously through my daughter. So I restrained myself from texting her daily to find out what was happening at EYE. Even though I was desperately curious!
I know she slammed her finger in a door and went to the medic. I know she was hot and some people bought her shorts (cue the mom guilt – did I not send her with enough shorts? probably not!). Her one sentence about EYE’s programming via text? “It’s more fun than I thought it would be.”
I’m sure she’ll tell me more when she gets home. But I may never know whether God touched her heart during Compline by the water. I won’t know all the new friends she made. I won’t know whether she fell for our church as hard as I have.
All that is part of raising a teenager actively seeking an independent life. I get it. That’s okay.
But here’s the biggest part I don’t know, and this is the part that actually matters: what do I do with her now? She’s not only my daughter, she’s also part of the church I serve as priest. Do I ask her to speak to the congregation about the experience? Do I ask her to write something to share with the church? Do I expect more of her, since she now understands more of our faith? Do I treat her as the future leader I hope she will be?
Or do just I pick her up and let life return to normal?
I don’t have an answer for those questions today. I have to look in her eyes and listen to her story before I know what my next steps are. She, not I, will be the one who follows God’s call in her life.
But it matters that I, as an EYE parent, stop and ask the questions. It matters that I take some time and just listen to her talk about her EYE experience. It matters that I listen for the story behind the story–not just what she did at EYE, but what God did through EYE. It matters that I try to figure out how I can support her next steps on her journey of discipleship.
I don’t know what those steps are, but with God’s help, she will discover them. May I be the mom who both supports her journey and gets out of the way. That’s my post-EYE-mom prayer.
Did you attend the Episcopal Youth Event? Do you have wisdom for parents of current attendees?
My biggest reminder for parents (from being a participant in events and on being a leader) is to remember this is a mountain top experience. And the hard part is coming down from the mountain.
How do help with the depression and disillusionment of day to day life, of not being surrounded by 1000 of your closest friends, of not having people who care if you are tired, hungry, hot, or injured around you?
My question for myself and the young people is
How do you want this experience to change you?
On a day to day level (do you want to do compline at night, or have a time to debrief the day with others)?
On a grand scheme (how can you live as a dream maker and peace bringer)?
Let the experience change you – for the better!
And make sure you get your family and friends to help with that change.
Nurya, your daughter now had 20 people from who live within 3 hours of her who will be there for her, if she ever needs them. Community is pretty awesome!
Best wishes welcoming your dear daughter home!! Surely the podcast summary will give you an excellent opening platform along with other fine suggestions here. If your daughter is the sole EYE17 representative of your parish, I hope she will be inspired to share some highlights. If she part of a group, I hope they will develop a presentation so each may contribute. If I were a PIP at your church, I’d want to hear what interested and/or aggravated these youngsters. I’d want to know what they’re thinking and what’s important to them!
Hope we’ll hear more and a pleasant Sat eve to you all!!
Jamie Martin Currie says
Hopefully this is the question of many parents. Here is the podcast from the Taking EYE home workshop. Hope it helps! Jamie
Nurya Love Parish says
Thanks, this is fabulous! So glad you shared it, I will be listening on the way to pickup!
If she were mine, I’d ask…what surprised you? Who do you want to keep in touch with? Did you experience anything that changed your mind/heart about something or someone?
Nurya Love Parish says
Great questions, thank you!
This past spring I shared an experience from my teen years with a woman I had just met during the Lenten study. The Lenten study was the program that the Society of St John the Evangelist helped create. As a teenager, my family was United Church of Christ, and every year my parents sent me to Conference, a week away from home, organized by UCC.
It’s been more than fifty years, I can see the impressionable kid I was and the great understanding of God, the Creator, I learned then. I know I told my parents about it, when I came home. But I sure didn’t realize that it was a lifetime story.
Nurya Love Parish says
I think that’s the nature of these things – it is only by looking back at our teenage years that we realize what shaped us.