Faith Matters: Middle school, marching band and the kingdom of God

I thought I had more time.

Eighteen years is the minimum, right? That’s what you sign up for when you become a parent.

Elementary school lulled me into believing that I would have FOR-EV-ER to teach my children about how much Jesus loves them, how through prayer they can talk to God every day, how important it is to connect to a community of fellow believers for encouragement and accountability.

I’m a pastor-parent so, by most standards, I’m probably a little bit ahead of the game in this area. But, as middle school drew to a close in May, even I am starting to feel hurried and worried.

The middle school years seemed fairly manageable. Our daughter couldn’t drive and neither could any of her friends, so all activities had to be scheduled through the Mom and Dad Taxi Service.

Sports seasons are short — thank you, cross country, for only having two meets. And most everything else was a few extra minutes in the mornings or at dismissals.

There was very little that conflicted with serving the community, sharing the Good News of the Gospel, growing with the church family in love and mission. I’ve been especially thankful for getting the chance to take her to school each morning and praying with her on those drives.

Hope Lee.jpg
Rev. Hope Italiano Lee

But now, something has entered into our lives that is threatening to consume every waking minute of the next 4 years: marching band. I blame my husband since he’s the musical one and taught her how to play her first instrument when she was 6.

High school marching band is so invasive that it crept into the last two quarters of middle school with its tryouts and minicamps.

And then the fall schedule came out and I discovered that pretty much every weekend from mid-August until Jesus returns is going to be dominated by this one activity.

At first, I was devastated and not just because I’m not a huge fan of marching bands. I was devastated because I thought I had 4 more years of teaching my daughter the faith, imparting in her a solid theological foundation to be prepared for the challenges that will come with college and young adulthood.

Four years that marching band is now threatening to steal from us.

It’s taken me a couple of months, but I’m coming to grips with this new reality and being reminded daily that my job as a parent is to continually teach my children how to be independent, to think for themselves, to take responsibility, and to own their faith. Up until now I’ve been able to do that on my terms.

Now, we will do it together on hers.

I took a practice run at this last fall when I agreed to watch both seasons of “Stranger Things” with her over Christmas break. And then again when I took up running so that she and I could run 5K races together each month. Between you and me, neither of those things would have been my choice — kind of like marching band.

But, what I’m learning is that when I go where she is, she is happy for us to do life together, even to the point of actually wanting to things that I like — sometimes. And what the Church knows is that when you do life together, your faith solidifies and blossoms.

That’s why Jesus went to the fisherman and caught fish with them before he said, “follow me.”

So, I’m going to be a marching band parent. Wow. Things get real when you put it in print. Our family is all set to join the larger family that is the Marching Noles of Southeast High School.

And instead of seeing this as a conflict with the church, my plan is to bring the church to the field by supporting her, walking through the challenges of forgiveness, mercy, and love while being part of a larger community that doesn’t always agree with your beliefs.

Lord-willing, I’ve got four more years with my “little” girl and my plan is to make every one of them count towards building up the Kingdom of God with, and in, my kid.

The Rev. Hope Italiano Lee, lead pastor of Kirkwood Presbyterian Church and The Well, can be reached at 941-794-6229, or Faith Matters is a regular feature of Saturday's Bradenton Herald written by local clergy members.