They are Watching and Learning from Us

When I was in college, I spent two summers as an intern at a church in Scarborough, Maine. I cannot put into words to tell you just how much those two summers shaped my spiritual development as a 20/21 year old. A woman named Marilyn served on staff at the church and provided leadership to all 8-10 of us college students. I could share a thousand things I learned from her and from members of that church who I grew to love like family but one lesson I learned through those experiences that is still on my heart as I first open my eyes in the morning even now 12 years later is this : the generation(s) behind us is watching us and learning from us and that should spur us on to faithfulness to Christ.

This morning when I woke up, it wasn’t Marilyn’s voice in my head (although that wouldn’t be unusual – she made quite the impression) but it was a face – Allie. And then others popped up as well – Aaron, Ella, Olivia. What feels like a lifetime ago and also just yesterday, I was teaching the preschool class at the church summer camp and at times on Sunday mornings and these sweet faces sat across from me as we read bible stories and sang songs and made crafts. Today because of technology, I’m no longer sitting across a very short table in any official teaching capacity, they’re still watching and learning, deliberately or not.

Just this week, I noticed a post made by Allie surrounding current world events and it was a wake up call that my Maine kids are not kids anymore – they are graduating high school, they’re driving, they’re picking out colleges, they have boyfriends/girlfriends, they are all grown up. Their eyes are open to what is going on in the world and they are paying attention to the ways in which we respond. And again, whether they know it or not, they are weighing what they are seeing in me and in my response to the world we’re living in against what they personally know of Jesus as they navigate their own faith.

As I have had conversations with college students and young adults over the last few years around my kitchen table, I’m always heartbroken to hear them say how disappointed they have been to see the ways that key faith leaders in their lives, serving in their churches, are conducting themselves online as they express their political opinion. And my heart breaks because I am seeing it too – the men and women who pastored us, baptized us, taught us in Sunday School and in youth group are behaving publicly on social media in a way that is not Christlike. We are watching and learning, many times how not to act, from men and women of faith we have admired for years who have shaped us into who we are yet are not behaving in a way that points to the goodness of Christ.

Friends – I challenge you to think about who is watching you and learning from you as you navigate this broken world.

I also want to say that the legacy we leave behind should be so much deeper and richer than the public life we live on social media. We must be vigilant to not let the way we interact online undermine our witness as Christ followers. The generation behind us is watching and learning – we have a responsibility to teach them well and to show them what it looks like to live the life God has called us to live.

Allie, Ella, Aaron and Olivia on a visit back to Maine in 2012.