A few days ago, I stood at the wailing wall in Jerusalem watching devout worshippers bobbing and chanting before the last known remnant of Herod’s Temple. Jews and Gentiles alike stood in this place and contemplated how faith ought to be expressed to gain approval from the Almighty.
It was in this vicinity where Jesus sat with scribes and teachers of the Law during his twelfth year. Whether it was connected with his Bar Mitzvah, or simply part of the Festival he was attending, this was a significant moment in his declaration of manhood and identity.
When my son, Richard, was 12, we also took him on a tour of this land. His 12 Tasks lay before him and this trip tied his individual journey with the journeys of countless others who had entered into their own quests for manhood. Intentionally choosing to wed significant trips to significant life events can be a transformational experience that isn’t easily forgotten or dismissed. It was after this trip that Richard also declared his faith publicly in baptism.
The incredible thing about trips is that they can easily be a blur of mindless activity or they can be opportunities for deep reflection and motivation for transformation. Part of what will make a journey meaningful is the preparation that goes into what is coming. Building anticipation by establishing clear understanding of what you are seeing matters. Standing at the wailing wall is no different than standing at the mounds of ruins and walls in hundreds of other locations in this land or in another country.
When you are working with your son or daughter to establish 12 Tasks don’t forget the importance of the faith you consider as part of their ongoing identity. Climbing mountains, building tree forts, practicing hospitality in cross-cultural situations and writing reflective documents are only busy work unless you prepare for and tie it to deeper foundational realities.
As you contemplate a new year ahead and all the celebrations involved throughout that year, consider including a special journey to somewhere significant to tie in a moment for transformation. Include your son or daughter in the planning, in the preparation and in the recording of that journey. Feeling like you have had a part in making something happen can make all the difference in how it affects you.
On this particular occasion I was one of the tour leaders. I prepared a 90 page booklet focusing on each of the characters in the places we would travel. It was called Imagine your feet with… When we put ourselves into the stories of other people by physically standing or walking in the places where they stood and walked it can have a lasting impact.
I can remember standing with friends in Montana a few years ago and contemplating that the place we stood is the exact place where Lewis and Clark stood on their journey to the Pacific. Historians and religious folk are prolific in building memorials to mark key places which should be remembered. This is what 12 Tasks calls us to. To establish key memorials and events and practices which will stand out in our lives for years to come.
As you plan for the 12 Tasks, use your imagination to draw in a significant trip that will forever weld itself to your son or daughter’s coming of age experience. Planning that trip with other parents and children in a similar age bracket will give those children memories to discuss and build on in the years to come. Take advantage of this time in your child’s life to make a difference that will last. Feel free to share with us a little of those trips so others can be stimulated in their planning and preparation.