Just the other day, my almost 12-year-old son announced to me that he and his friends were going to make a movie. When I asked him about the details, he said that they were going to make a “feature length film to be screened in movie theaters.” Now up to this point, he has made quite a few five to ten minute movies on his Ipad and has even screened a few at church and at school. He is very talented for his age. So I mentioned to him that if he made a longer film, we could probably find a way to screen it at the local movie theater (we live in a small town with one movie theater). Of course I also had to become a bit of a buzz-kill and remind him that it would take a lot of work. His reaction was very typical of a boy his age. He told me that he didn’t just want to screen it here, but that he wanted to make a film that would receive wide distribution in theaters across the country in 2018.
Now as a parent, I had several options. I could explain to him the difficulties of this particular endeavor and explain to him that it would require resources that he just didn’t have. Or, I could tell him that I believed in him and that he could do whatever he put his mind to (and let him figure out on his own that he would be biting off more than he could chew). But instead, I did what I usually do… I replied with humor. I said, “That sounds like a great plan, but you should do it now while you still know everything!”
I don’t have to say that he wasn’t amused.
On tonight’s episode of The Walking Dead, I couldn’t help but flash back to this conversation during the scenes between Carl and Siddiq. Siddiq is a new character on the show who showed up briefly two episodes ago. (Comic book readers surmised that this was Siddiq, but it wasn’t confirmed until tonight.) But unfortunately, Rick chased him off quickly. So Carl hunts him down and gives him the “three question” treatment that they haven’t given a newcomer since season six. Perhaps they have been too busy in their “all out war” with the Saviors.
Both Carl and Siddiq are teenagers who have lost their mothers. They immediately have something in common – except that it is clear that Siddiq has no community or home at all. Siddiq also hasn’t eaten or had water in days, so Carl gives him much cherished food and water. Carl also seems very interested in bringing Siddiq into their own group. So after they both battle a large group of walkers, they engage in some teenage male bonding.
Siddiq: You okay?
Siddiq: You could’ve left.
Carl: I’m responsible for you now. That’s how it works.
Siddiq: I don’t want to make any trouble. Your dad didn’t want anything to do with me.
Carl: He didn’t, but sometimes kids have to find their own way to show their parents the way.
I actually burst into laughter when Carl said this. This was typical teen bravado that any parent of a teenager would recognize. Carl is clearly a teen now and it is easy to forget because we have literally watched him grow up on screen (perhaps the thing we experience with our own children?). While actor Chandler Riggs is now 18 years old, he was supposed to be seven during season one. However, according to Robert Kirkman’s comments about the timeline, Carl is supposed to be about 13 to 14 years old on the show this season. What 14-year-old doesn’t think that kids have to “find their own way to show their parents the way” (even in a zombie apocalypse)?
Carl and Siddiq are at the age where they still think that they know everything. Siddiq has told Carl that he kills walkers because his mom (a Muslim in the comic) believed that their souls would be released into heaven this way. So even though his mom seems to be long gone, Siddiq is still doing this. He may be doing this to honor her, or he may actually have taken her teaching to heart and full-heartedly believe it. Carl is proud to be implementing the system that his group invented (the three questions) but now he is doing it in defiance of his own father.
These are just two teens trying to figure out their way into maturity and they are experiencing it in the same awkward way that all teens experience it. The world around them is still falling apart, but they are acting like most young people in most cultures – confused, easily influenced and full of unearned confidence.
As a parent and a pastor, I am committed to helping my children and my congregation navigate a path into maturity. And let’s face it, most of us who are adults are still learning these lessons ourselves. This is why I believe that everyone, at every age needs to have mentors and people that they look up to. Children as well as adults need people with more experience in life helping them navigate the world. And we all know what happens to people who don’t have mentors in their lives… most of them never seem to grow up.
Apostle Paul addresses this issue in the book of Ephesians chapter five.
11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 13 This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. 15 Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16 He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love. (Ephesians 5:11-16, NLT)
Notice what Paul calls the leaders in the church – “gifts Christ gave to the church.” Leaders in the church (as well as in the home) are gifts from God. Just ask anyone who went to a church with a leadership vacuum or a home without leadership. Leadership is something that we all need. Why does Paul say that we need these people? So that we will become “mature in the Lord” (vs 13). He also points out that this will make it so that we are no longer “immature like children” (vs 14). His imagery here is very stark. Children are easily deceived and they can be influenced “with lies”. That is why they need those around them who can speak “in truth.” Ultimately, we are to learn to trust in God so that we all can become important parts of the body of Christ.
Of course not every appointed leader or parent is going to do this job well. But that should never serve as an excuse to try and avoid finding people around us who can lead us in this way. In my life I make sure that I always am being mentored and that I am always mentoring someone. I also want to see this in my congregation and in my family. I am not saying that I have achieved the absolute maturity that Paul is talking about in Ephesians. But, I know that without continuing to seek mature leaders in my life, I will never even come close to “measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ” (vs 13).
SEASON 8, EPISODE 6 DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:
1) Gregory says that “people who aren’t leaders always think that they know better.” This statement is obviously ironic, but is there some truth to the statement? Why or why not?
2) King Ezekiel is a leader who is clearly discouraged. While Carol is trying to help encourage him, do you think that she is giving him the right advice? Why or why not?
3) Do you think that this passage in Ephesians could be helpful to Ezekiel? Why or why not?
4) Why do you think that Rick tried to frighten Siddiq away two weeks ago? Was this the right thing to do? Why or why not?
5) Paul uses the illustration of childhood in Ephesians to explain a truth in the Christian life. Do you agree that children are more easily influenced than most adults? If so, what do you think that children need to help them overcome this?
6) Do you think that mentorship is something that would be helpful to you in your life? What about in your relationship with Jesus?
7) Do you think that you will ever reach an age where you don’t need a mentor? Why or why not?
8) In what ways do you think that you can mature into someone who will “do your own special work” and help “the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love” (vs 16)?
Thom McKee Jr. is a husband, father, pastor… and film geek (and brother of Jonathan McKee). Thom lives in Northern California with his wife and two kids.