keeping watch

by Elizabeth de Barros

Through the smoke curls of his cigar, I would watch my father as he sat at the table after dinner, musing aloud in the afterglow to whoever would listen. He was funny, sardonic, and, on occasion, extraordinarily pensive. But when he said, “In 50 years, what you will have is an amoral society,” I heard the voice of a broadcaster. He emphasized amoral by clarifying that he did not mean immoral. He’d squint as though he could see into the future, like he knew that what he saw in his mind’s eye was going to happen.

He was only off by 10 years. Some things make headway sooner than we can predict.

Now, his words are the substance of my daily bread. And reason why I’ve been taking up precious minutes of my 15-year-old’s summer to study with him the book of Ecclesiastes. Getting at the big questions, searching as though we’re Solomon. Better to grapple now — before he asks — or might never bother to ask. Life’s coming at him fast and hard, he’s realizing there are no easy answers. I’m both mother and midwife, helping him find the face of Him in Whom all questions are put to rest.

So I roll up my sleeves, not willing to let a surrogate take my place.

Much of the Christian subculture offers its own ideas for evangelizing teens. Park ’em in front of a Wii and train ’em with enough pizza to keep ’em comin’ while the proclamation of the gospel suffers in silence against the din of the latest YouTube video. Then tell them God loves ’em, you love ’em and that they can all go home now.

Truth be told, teens are being amused to death and the majority of youth pastors need evangelizing themselves. I’m not willing to yield my flesh and blood to someone who, spiritually speaking, has no proven driving record. There are too many blind curves and not a lot of guard rails to adulthood. Parents are given a charge by God to train up their children, and that amounts to so much more than peering at the clock when they come tiptoeing through the door at midnight. Too many parents abdicated their authority to the powers that be a long time ago. Meanwhile, our nation’s youth are largely lost, like silent refugees standing on the side of the road, afraid to ask for directions, let alone know where to find food.

Back to amorality. My father was right. His words warned long before I knew the meaning of the word. Now, the urgency is mine to secure for my son a Biblical response to the world he’s inheriting. He sees its fractures. He dares acknowledge they’re acute, but I refuse to strive in vain against the tide that vies to pull him under. I recognize that my efforts alone are weak and powerless. Instead, I’m making it my business to serve him Truth from a steady hand, taking pains to rightly divide the Word for this reason only: His soul is at stake. But it’s the gospel that saves. I can only offer my hands to the One who will either bless or curse what I do or do not do. My obligation is plain. I’m mother to the next generation.

So I toil away in obscurity, looking through the haze of  my own smoke curls, the missionary prayers of a mother whose sole desire is to bear fruit to God. The future is in His hands, but the times and seasons are for me to watch.



Better a poor but wise youth than an old but foolish king
who no longer knows how to take warning.

– Ecclesiastes 4:13