For the better part of the last year, my son has had car-itis.
As a soon-to-be licensed driver, his mind seemed to be fixated on cars all day every day. His car of choice is a late 1980s Fox Body Mustang. The text message thread from my son to me is both single-sided and single-minded. It is filled with links to listings of beat-up, broken-down and barely operable Mustangs on Facebook Marketplace.
I can’t see what J.J. can see when he looks at these cars. I see a bunch of problems, not the potential. As I noted in a previous column, I want to see people like J.J. sees these cars, full of promise, just waiting for someone to invest the compassion and care necessary to help them shine.
While I don’t see it in these cars and I don’t always see it in people around me, I do see the potential and promise in J.J. So this past weekend, we made a significant investment and we bought a 1988 Fox Body Mustang that we have named “Miss Betty Blue.”
When we first fired that car up after buying it, the engine wasn’t the only thing to light up. My son, who doesn’t always express a lot of emotion, lit up like a Christmas tree. He sat up straight in his seat, his eyes opened wide and a smile stretched from ear to ear.
As we made the trek from Indianapolis home, I listened as J.J. began outlining his plans for “Miss Betty.” I didn’t understand most of what he was saying, but I understood his drive and his passion. I could feel his energy. and it was wonderfully infectious. And while I can’t see what he can see, I can see he has a vision and a willingness to work for it.
Our first stop when we arrived back in Seymour was at the house of one of J.J.’s best friends. The impromptu trip to Indy and back caused J.J. to be late for a shared birthday party for him and his friend. When we pulled up in front of the house, I pushed on the gas pedal and revved the engine. A group of excited teenage boys came running out the door and surrounded the car.
For the next several minutes, J.J. and his friends did laps around the car, each offering ideas of what could be done to the car to restore it to its full glory. Their shared interest and energy was palpable.
The next day, J.J. asked if some of his friends could come over to help beautify “Miss Betty Blue.” For the better part of an afternoon, a group of four teenage boys washed that car both inside and out, all the while dreaming about what she would become and the effort they would like to put into their own vehicles.
As I listened to them, I realized our investment was not just in our teenager but in his tribe, as well. That worn-out car will serve as a training ground where these boys can learn and grow together in practical ways both relationally and in ability.
Proverbs 22:6 reads, “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old, they will not turn from it.” We often limit the application of this verse to helping our kids learn and grow in the faith. And while putting our children on the path of following God is of first importance, the text can and should be applied to the whole of their lives.
Part of helping our children honor God with their lives is helping them discover and develop the talents and abilities God has given them. The money we have and will spend on that car isn’t really being invested in a vehicle. Instead, it is a vehicle that is allowing us to make investments in our son and his friends.
It’s much the same as a parent paying for their child to play travel ball, to take dance lessons, etc. They may never become professionals in that field, but perhaps we are opening up paths they will continue to travel that will help them become who God created them to be.
The investments we make in our children today will influence who they become and what they do as adults in the future. We need to make sure we are making investments that matter. We need to make investments that will help our children to know, love and follow Jesus. We need to create opportunities for intellectual development and growth.
It is beneficial to provide avenues for athletic improvement and achievement, but we also need to open our eyes to other paths to productive and healthy development. For J.J. and some of his friends, that will require old worn-out cars and more than a few trips to Seymour NAPA.
Our children are God’s greatest gift to us, and it is our privilege and responsibility to play a part in helping them make their way in the world. May our eyes, ears, hearts and minds be open to seeing the passions God has placed within them and may we invest as best we can to help them grow into the men and women God has made them to be.
The investments we make today will play a part in opening the roads our children will walk in the days to come. Invest wisely.
The Rev. Jeremy Myers is the lead pastor of First Baptist Church in Seymour. Read his blog at jeremysmyers.com. Send comments to [email protected]