For the month of January, the Equipped blog will be exploring the theme of New Beginnings: New Years resolutions. We start strong in January and they slowly dissipate by the end of February- whether its reading more, or getting healthy or whatever it is, we start the year with excitement, with visions and goals for the year to come. As you look to this year, what’s a particular verse that you want to shape your entire year?
Two more years.
That’s all we’ve got left?
And only four years remaining for our youngest?
It hit me like a freight train that evening, while I was surrounded by Dawson’s High School Seniors. As usual, they were sitting around our dinner table that Monday night for “Family Dinner.” We host them every week, and it probably blesses us more than it does them. But on that particular night, they were discussing college choices. Some seemed perfectly ready to be on their own. Others seemed apprehensive. A few of them looked way too young. Speaking of “way too young,” our 10th grader and our 8th grader were sitting in the room with them, and I suddenly saw a giant imaginary countdown timer as I looked at them. It seemed like only last week that I was at Centrikid Camp with them. But here we are- only two & four years from watching my son and daughter heading off to college, and I haven’t come close to teaching them everything they’ll need to know to survive, much less thrive, when they are out on their own.
Driving a car? Finances? All that complicated boy-girl relationship stuff? A ”must remember to teach them about _____” list started scrolling by in my head. It was lonnnnnnnng. I’ve always told them that it’s my job to make sure they don’t end up as copies of their parents, but rather that we want them to be better than their mom and dad.
I’ve got a lot of teaching left to do before I pull the chocks from under their wheels so they can fly off.
Where do I even start? I sifted through the expanding to-do list, and came to the conclusion that there aren’t enough minutes left in the upcoming two years. I decided I had better boil it down to essentials.
What are the most important nuggets I need to make sure they carry with them? OK, that’s easier. The seeds for our kids’ adult successes were planted years ago, and they really weren’t directly related to lessons on dating, stick-shifts, or bill-paying. The seeds that sprout into vines of good decision-making are those related to our core values, beliefs, and priorities as Believers. Those are the building blocks.
Back in my Air Force days, we talked about the AF’s three “Core Values”: Integrity First, Service before self, and Excellence in all we do. It really doesn’t take much word-swapping to adjust those values to a Christian life template, right? That got me thinking, and I laughed, realizing the middle Value was actually a paraphrase of my favorite verse. The words of this verse are prominently displayed on a large stone in the courtyard of a certain heavily guarded Special Operations compound where I occasionally worked. On this boulder are the words to Isaiah 6: 8.
And God said, “Whom shall I send? Who will go for me?’
I answered, “Here am I. Send Me.”
As someone who was fully prepared to give my life for my country, it resonated. There is an oath that military combatants take that says “I am an American, fighting in the forces that defend our country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense.” Isaiah 6:8 struck a lifelong note in my occasionally hard head. I kept it on the wall of my closet so that I would see it every time I put on my uniform. I took it with me when I deployed. And I kept it on my desk as a commander. It eventually led me to serve on Dawson’s Safety Team. It kicks me in the shin when I don’t feel like volunteering for a given need. Thousands of years after he wrote those words, Isaiah constantly reminds me that It ain’t about me. I am here to serve others, not to serve myself.
Seems like that should be a good guide for every second of my life, right? The verse reinforces the second greatest commandment, which Jesus mentions in the Gospels. Right after he says “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and Soul and mind,” he commands us to “…love thy neighbor as thyself.” In Danny-simple words: If I always put others first, I’m more than likely at least headed in the right direction on my daily walk. I’d love to say I am good at holding true to Isaiah 6:8 all the time…that I apply it unwaveringly as a husband, a dad, as a Christian, or as a member of Dawson’s Family of Faith. But I fail miserably pretty much every day. In fact, I really stink at it.
But it’s a starting point. It’s MY starting point, and it’s what I use to frame every meaningful decision in my life, to this day. After my faith/trust in my God and Savior, there is nothing more important than putting myself behind others. Isaiah said it, and Jesus said it. That’s good enough for me.
So, back to my teenagers, and all the life-answers I need to teach them before they move out…
As I sat around the table that night, watching Dawson’s seniors, I took a step back and felt a peace. I reminded myself that we really aren’t teaching young people the answers to the life- test. Instead, we are (and have been, for years) teaching them the formulas for making tough life-decisions they will face later. They have been getting “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and soul,” and Isaiah 6:8 (in various forms) for years from grandparents, family friends, Dawson Kids’ amazing team of investors, the Dawson Student Ministry, and the whole Dawson Family.
So, THANK YOU. Thank you, to every voice that, even for brief moments, speaks words of God’s love and light to every young person at Dawson, and in our community. And thank you for your living demonstration of Isaiah’s words. Thank you for giving my kids the tools they’ll need when they start their own adult walk in a few years.
That’s all the time I have today. Gotta go teach a 15-year-old to drive.
Danny Turner, better known as “Anita’s husband” and as “Robby and Veronica’s dad”, is a retired USAF pilot who serves as a deacon and as a member of the Safety Team. He has been a volunteer with DK and DSM, and is rumored to be the coolest guy Danielle knows.