“American drivers spend an average of more than 17,600 minutes behind the wheel each year, according to a new survey from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. The research finds that more than 87.5 percent of Americans aged 16 years and older reported driving in the past year. During this time, drivers traveled nearly 10,900 miles on average and spent more than 290 hours on the road.” People are in their cars for 17,600 minutes each year, and that is just the average. Families are no exception to this, in fact, they are probably on the higher end of that average. By the time parents drop their kids off at practice, run to the grocery, pick them up from practice, get home and unload groceries, get back in the car for music lessons, and back home again. And that is just an afternoon. I didn’t even mention the long drive to the magnet school on the other side of town.
Our car rides with family are the perfect time to take notice of the sacred, and reflect on our lives of faith. And yet, we are content with the “quiet” car ride. We are content when our children put in their headphones, or pick up the Switch, or turn on the movie. And when the family arrives at home, we go our separate ways. Either to crash on the couch, clean up, do homework, or to go and be alone. So being in the car is the perfect place to notice the sacred in our lives. As a parental figure, you are so much more than your child’s chauffeur!
How Can This Be Sacred?
series by Rev. Jay Deskins
Every day we encounter sacred moments. And yet, we ignore, don’t notice or turn away. This blog, How Can This be Sacred? is created to help us notice the sacred in our every day lives, and how to take those sacred moments to reflect on our faith, give thanks, and to ask questions. As families become more and more busy, handing down our faith to the next generation is being pushed to the back burner. We have to be intentional about passing on the stories of our faith.
My hope is that you and your family take moments every day in your busy lives to notice the sacred.
In scripture, we read on multiple occasions how God meets people on the road. In Luke 24, we read about a disciple named Cleopas who is journeying with another disciple. They were talking about all the things that had happened to Jesus in the last few days. But because they were so distracted by the conversation, that they didn’t notice the sacred that was standing right in front of them.
If we would pull our eyes from our devices, and take out the earbuds, we can be present. We can interact with each other in person. So how do we interact with each other in the car that brings out the sacred, that encourages faith development?
- Put the phones and other devices down!
Sure, being in the car is the perfect time for passengers to check in on Snapchat or Instagram, but then the driver is left alone (hopefully they aren’t doing these things while driving). Make a rule for your family, if one person is not able to use their phone, then no one is allowed to use a phone.
- Ask questions!
“Did you have fun?” is a good question to ask when you hop in the car. But there are limited answers to that (yes, no, kinda). Ask deeper questions. Ask about any new friends they made, or how they were helpful. If we only ask “IF” they made friends or “IF” they were helpful, they will only answer “yes” or “no.” And when kids give you the typical answer of “yes” or “no,” don’t let that stop the conversation, ask those 5-W’s “who, what, when, where, and why.” The longer you keep your children engaged in conversation, the less likely they are going to want to put their earbuds in.
- Keep your eyes open to God’s creation!
Most of the time our drives are pretty repetitive, to and from work/school/practice/church. We don’t use our eyes to notice the extraordinary gift that we have around us. Ask “what do you see?” Do they see a farm? A park? Is it raining? Sunny? Are there people enjoying the day? When they tell you what they see, ask questions about what they see. “What does a farm do?” “Where do you see God in a farm?” If it is a wheat farm, for example, you can talk about how that wheat is turned into bread, and how that ordinary bread becomes holy when we eat together in worship. Talk about stewardship of the earth, and how you understand our role in the participation of caring for God’s earth. “Do you see that mountain? It is really up there!” Tell a “mountaintop story” and how you saw God in that moment. Ask your kids about their “mountaintop” moments and how they saw God.
- Have the kids read scripture in the car!
You may or may not have a bible in the car, but you have access to it on your phone. Read the scripture that your church is using for worship on Sunday, or slowly read through a book of the Bible. Ask questions about what you just read, tell your kids how you understand that scripture. Tell your kids that you have questions about what you just read.
- Listen to music together!
Lately in life I have come to the realization that the music I grew up listening to (90’s pop, alt-rock, hip-hop) is not something kids know a lot about. And yet, I still see teenagers discovering Led Zepplin, Pink Floyd and anyone else from the 1970’s. If our kids don’t hear the music that brought us joy, or carried us through times of trouble, then where else will they find it? Now, this sounds like the rant of a crazed person yelling “GET OFF MY LAWN!” but it isn’t. I have found sacred in the music of John Prine. John Prine is not an artist I would have chosen to listen to. But because my father played him in the car, I know the depth and beauty of his songs. I see the joy his music brings my dad, and the joy my dad has when we sing together, or when we go see John Prine live together. The joy a parent finds in their child is a very biblical notion. Also, let them pick out music from time to time, but not always. This is an easy way to teach kids the passing on of tradition and knowledge. If they get to pick everything, it becomes only about them. YOU, the parents, get to pass things on to your children. This is important.
- Play games together!
Simple enough. “I Spy,” “The Grocery Game,” “The License Plate Game” are all examples of games even drivers can play. Play brings us closer, creates stories, and brings joy, all of these things I believe God wants from us.
- Have “Care Kits” in your car to give to those asking for help
Teach your kids how to share God’s love by giving to those who are seeking help. Many people don’t like giving money to people on the streets, but you can create Care Kits that have snack bars, water bottles, restaurant gift cards, sunscreen, etc. inside. Have the kids write a note for the kit with a prayer, scripture, or blessing. This will help kids put faith into practice.
- Share your story!
We often expect our children to share their story with us, but they need to know our stories as well. I know many stories of my parents’ childhoods because they talked to us in the car. I know about the churches my parents grew up in because of car rides, I know about their neighborhoods, and about my grandparents. When we expect our children to be open with us, we have to lead by example.
When our families are in different places, whether because of school, sports, split families, parties, or even church, we have to have intentional time to dive deep into our faith. Otherwise, they may not notice the everyday sacred. And if they do notice, they may not understand why it is sacred. This is the sacred responsibility of parents and families.
Rev. Jay Deskins, Arizona Regional Youth and Children’s Minister
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