For the record my children are ages 7, 4, and 2. I know this series hasn’t gone too deep into parenting the tween years and up because I have zero experience with that age group, but for today's topic I'm looking ahead a little into the unknown as I discuss Rites of Passage. These milestones can certainly happen at all walks of life, but the ones I am focusing on are more around the adolescent years. The book Wild Things has an entire chapter dedicated to Rituals, Ceremonies, and Rites of Passage and puts a great deal of importance on marking significant moments and transitions into manhood, or in the case that I am about share womanhood.
My niece (in-law) has a beautiful story about a symbolic ring she got for a significant milestone. I happen to love romantic stories and proposals, so I asked her if I could share hers and she agreed. She received a purity ring from her parents shortly after 8th grade. The idea was to wear it on her left ring finger until the day she was engaged. Well, it wasn't too long after she began college that she found the man she wanted to spend the rest of her life with. When their one year anniversary as a couple was approaching he began making an elaborate scheme to catch her off guard.
He told her months beforehand that he would be on a mission trip during their one year anniversary. So she knew well in advance not to expect anything around that time. However, on the day they hit the one year mark, a friend of hers gave her a letter from her soon to be fiancé and told her that he wanted it to be special even though he couldn't be there. The note led her to a Lighthouse that they had previously visited together. When she arrived at the Lighthouse she found candles, bridal magazines, and white Gerber daises along with another note instructing her to remove the purity ring (in preparation for the engagement ring). She still assumed he was out of the country and had no idea when the ring would be coming, but when she followed the instructions she turned around and there he was down on one knee asking for her hand in marriage! How sweet is that? She actually had her sterling silver purity ring melted down and put into the band of his custom titanium ring.
These are the actual rings.
They have been married for 5 years now and have a beautiful 1-year-old daughter.
The reason I share this story is because her parents cared enough to acknowledge that she had become a women. They gave her a tangible and valuable gift to signify this, and she in turn was able to take ownership of that in a spiritual way and in this case literally turned the ring over to her husband to be melted into his. What a beautiful picture of God's design for family! The man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife. The two shall become one flesh. They are no longer two, but one.
This is a photo of my niece and nephew on their wedding day.
I think the purity ring for girls is somewhat common in Christian communities, whereas boys often get overlooked. You will find throughout history, and even now in other cultures, there is great value placed on rites of passage. Unfortunately this is not the case in our Western culture. In the book Wild Things it explains how these days driver's licenses and sports trophies are about as close as it comes to having a significant marking to manhood. The trouble is "If we don't create rites of passage for our boys, they will find their own. If we don't mark their passage into the fellowship of men, they will create experiences that make them feel like the men they long to become. A rite of passage for a boy can be anything from smoking pot to sleeping with a girl. For many boys, life will eventually initiate them, but it is often too late or too imperceptible to have any real meaning."
There are so many ideas and options when it comes to what an initiation can look like. I won't get into all that right now, but I do want to highlight one rite of passage in particular that I will never forget. It was a grand sweet sixteen birthday for a pastor friend of mine's daughter and I was hired to do the photography. At this event the father gave his daughter a ring just like the one mentioned in the first story with my niece. He gave a speech that the ring was symbolic of her covenant with God and her promise to commit her heart and her life to Him only. It was a symbol that she was to remain pure and consecrated and not be distracted by the world and the lies of the enemy as she enters into a new season of independence.
I don’t remember the exact wording of the speech I just remember one part that stuck out to me and brought me to tears. The father went on to say to his daughter
This ring isn’t just a symbol of your commitment to God, but it is also promise of my commitment to you. And that is if you ever find yourself in the wrong place, if you go down a path that you know you shouldn’t have taken, I will be right here for you. My love will never leave you no matter what. There is nothing that will break that covenant and you can always come to me anytime.
WOW. That's it! That's the new covenant. That's grace. That is the heart of Teachable Parenting.
I can't be the perfect parent, but even if I could, at the end of the day I can't control them and they will have to be able to stand and fall with their own two feet. Even then I can say, "I love you my child. I will never stop and no matter what I will never give up the fight to be connected to your heart" because that is the Father's love for us. Thank you Lord.
This is day 25 of a 31 day series. For the rest of teachable parenting click HERE.