Last night I had a very vivid dream. I was talking to someone about ministry to children. It's hard to explain the dream, I was talking to someone as God was talking to me.
We talked about the different ways to disciple children at the ages and stages of childhood. The pattern was simple, though I think I understood it more completely in my dream: tunnels, bridges, paths and roads.
With little ones it seems, that the point is to go deep. It makes me think about how when our children are too little to understand, we just pour into them the Truth. Like in a tunnel they can't really see clearly, but it's a movement in the foundation.
As our children grow, we bring their instruction to the surface. Like a bridge, boundaries are clear, the destination is obvious. In the toddler and early school years, our instruction is very intentional, (years of saying "no" over and over again.) It's point A to point B teaching, expectations and consequences, very little gray areas.
As our children grow, depending on their maturity, but in and around the middle school years is when our children venture out to explore paths for themselves. We don't monitor their every move and decision anymore. It's as though we've given them their compass and let them out on their own, but within a defined boundary. They may get lost, but we still know where they are and how to quickly find them. They feel a little freedom seeking out their own path, but they aren't traveling far enough to get lost.
Then eventually the time comes that we let go and they head out on the road for themselves, determining on their own where that road is headed. It's their own "road to hoe," and each child will decide for themselves when they go and where they'll head, some will tarry and others will blaze a trail, but each one will go down that road.
These are my first thoughts from the dream. I've been pondering this phrase all day: tunnels, bridges, paths and roads. I don't think the pattern is restricted to rearing children, I think it can refer to our own spiritual growth as well, and perhaps might even be seasonal or vary with circumstance. Sometimes we have to go back to tunnels, taking the Truth deep within, then onto simple obedience, then slowly testing it out before we get on the road, of growth, change, forgiveness, reconciliation, recovery... whichever road we need to head down.
I'm still chewing on it, still praying for more revelation, but I do feel like God was offering wisdom in my dream. It is good to serve a God who speaks.