A lot of people love to hate Mark Driscoll. He is after all a paragon of mouth idioms: a big-mouth, a potty-mouth, he who puts his foot in his mouth. A wagger of tongues. Still, I like Mark for the fact that he believes in his 14 year old daughter Ashley and does not shield her from the public stage but thrusts her into it.
Alisa Harris criticizes Driscoll for this very thing. “Don’t do it, Mark!” she cries.
Why? One of the most godly things a father can do with a son or daughter is thrust him or her onto the stage of life. This past year was crunch time for me to do that selfsame thing for my daughter Elisabetta. She was 16 a year ago. Now she is 17. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, here are pics of the two teenagers I discuss in this post.
Things I encouraged Betta to do in the past year, and which she did, include the following: (1) co-teach confirmation class with me; (2) start a service club at her high school, a junior Rotary club, with me as advisor; (3) take first and second semester college Latin through a University of Wisconsin-Extension program, with me going over her assignments before she hands them in.
All of these commitments were costly for the both of us. They occasioned plenty of fights and disagreements. She is headstrong. So am I. Did I push her to do things she did not want to do? Yes, I did. Did I sometimes put my foot down? I did. Did she sometimes stand up to me? She did; occasionally, with success. I would not trade these fights for the world.
Two other things I encouraged Betta to do, which will shape her life in ways that are beyond my ability, and her ability, to fathom: (4) apply to the university of her dreams; and (5) study abroad for a year.
Elisabetta wants to be a missionary doctor. Paola and I, who are both pastors, are a little bit proud of how she wants to carry on the “family business” in her own way and wed it with a passion for children and Africa and an Albert Schweitzer-like love of all things bright and beautiful. Including knowledge, STEM knowledge, and including God. As she began to apply to universities and we talked about those she might apply to – Duke, Emory, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Calvin College, Wheaton, NYU (she loves NYC), Washington University in St. Louis - I asked her where she really wanted to go. “Johns Hopkins,” she said, “but Dad, I have no chance of getting in.” She was right, but a challenge is a wonderful thing.
The least I could do was help her try to enter the top school in the world for what she wants to do, the things dreams are made of, which I did, and it probably made a difference, because I know how academics think - I are one - and what admissions officers of a school like JHU are looking for. Moreover, Betta has the very things JHU looks for in a prospective student. And she was accepted into JHU. The day she received the email to that effect will always be remembered by us all as one of the happiest, most astounding days of her life.
A year of study abroad. The usual window in which high school students study a year abroad, if they do, is their junior year. I have issues with this, since high school is, for students with strong academic discipline, a commitment to one or more sports and teammates, and an active social life, an intense experience that is perhaps best not to cut asunder in the middle.1 On the other hand, I can think of few things more life-changing and valuable than that of spending an entire year in a language and culture that differ from one’s own. To my mind, a year between high school and college is an ideal window to accomplish that very thing. Which is what Betta is slated to do. Here she is explaining herself to her future host families. After an orientation period at Calvin College this summer, she will go to Peru for 11 months, under the competent auspices of Rotary International.
On the back cover of an excellent little book the subject of which is the reason why mission-minded, service-above-self Christianity has an extremely bright future ahead of it, Mark and Ashley Driscoll are quoted as follows: “This is a readable and enjoyable biographical introduction to some great Christian leaders. We really enjoyed this book and will be giving away numerous copies.” Mark Driscoll, pastor, Mars Hill Church, Seattle, Washington, and his teenage daughter Ashley Driscoll
Yeah, but the endorsement would have been better styled as coming from “youth leader Ashley Driscoll, Mars Hill Church, Seattle, Washington, 14 years old, and her father and pastor, Mark Driscoll.” After all, nerdy, passionate-for-God teeny boppers have an authority of their own, a distant relative of the authority of which Isaiah spoke, “a little child shall lead them.”
1 True, Betta switched high schools, hometown, and friends between her sophomore and junior years, a decision made over her head by her parents which she never forgave us for, until she realized, despite all the collateral damage, that it was the best thing that ever happened to her.
For a Jerry Falwell tribute in the same spirit, check out Kate Elizabeth Connor here.