In today’s episode, host Allison Maus sits down with author and educator, Melanie Springer Mock, to talk about themes from her new book, Finding Our Way Forward: When the Children We Love Become Adults. In this conversation, Melanie draws on her decades as a college professor and mom to four adult children to explore how finding our way means developing a more expansive understanding of calling for ourselves and for the young adults we love, one that moves beyond vocation and capitalistic enterprises to what God really calls us to: Seeking justice. Loving mercy. Walking with humility. Loving others. Loving God. This powerful book is available now from Herald Press.
Melanie Springer Mock, Allison Maus, Jennifer Garcia Bashaw, Ben Wideman
Ben Wideman 00:00
It’s season three of ~ing Podcast, a production of MennoMedia’s Leader Magazine. What does it mean to authentically follow Jesus?
Melanie Springer Mock 00:09
When my kids first transitioned to adulthood, I held on to that fear and I parented them, through my fear for them and for what they were experiencing in the world. And then, there, I had something happened to me. And it was an epiphany of a kind where I, I recognized that I had to let go of my fears, and, and just love them.
Ben Wideman 00:33
Join us as we talk with people of faith who are creatively thinking, growing, and being… people who are reimagining and exploring what it means to enrich faith in a complex world. Our conversation begins now. Join us as we journey together.
Allison Maus 00:52
Hello, all and welcome to another episode of ~ing Podcast. Today I am here with Melanie Springer Mock who is a professor currently at George Fox University in Oregon, and an author of several books, anticipating the launch soon as this episode is out, of the book, Finding Our Way Forward: When the Children We Love Become Adults. So Melanie, welcome. I’m looking forward to this conversation. How are you doing today?
Melanie Springer Mock 01:22
Thank you very much. I’m doing great. It’s a little bit cold and rainy out here in the Northwest. But wonderful to be here. Thank you.
Allison Maus 01:29
I’m curious if you will, I did a little introduction. But will you tell us a little bit more about yourself so our listeners can get to know you?
Melanie Springer Mock 01:36
Sure. I have been a professor of English at George Fox University for 22 years. I teach mostly Memoir Journalism classes. And first year writing. I love my job at George Fox University. It’s a Quaker evangelical school. Love my students, I feel like I learn every day from my students. I’m also the mother of two young men who are both 20 and step mother to two children who are in their 30s. And I also have two grandchildren. So I have this kind of wild and wonderful family of children spanning a pretty big age range. But ah, it’s a lovely family, so yeah. And I’m writing out of that experience of having having two young adults as my children, but also spending 22 year years with people in this age range.
Allison Maus 02:41
Yeah, that’s the line of work, right? As a professor, I’m sure you’re talking to me, lots of students are in the midst of that transition and navigating all the difficulties that that come with that. I’m curious if you can say more about your book. Why is this book this conversation, important for our world and the church today?
Melanie Springer Mock 03:02
Obviously, most of us have gone through a pretty difficult couple of years with the pandemic, and climate crises… it seems like violent rhetoric has increased as well, as well as violence in schools. And we think about young adults, this age and all the pressures that they are facing. And like, we’re going through this transition this hard time, and they are as well. And we’re supposed to be the ones leading young adults into adulthood, and we don’t know what we’re doing too, and we’re struggling as well. So my book comes out of that struggle of feeling like I’m supposed to be shepherding my children to adulthood and the kids I worked with to adulthood, but not knowing even how to navigate life myself. So what do we do in the midst of that? Where do we find wisdom to help mentor negative thoughts into adulthood? The premises in the book is that we get wisdom from Micah 6:8 in the Bible that says exactly what is required of us. And that is to walk humbly, love mercy, and do justice. That’s what God is calling us to. So how can we apply that verse to our mentorship of young adults? And then also how can we see in young adults that they are teaching us as well? They’re teaching us how to live, how to respond to this moment of after George George Floyd’s death. They’re showing us how to creatively respond and be active in calling out injustice. They’re showing us how to walk with humility. So the book is in part that synergy between how are we Shepherd shepherding young adults into adulthood. And how are they teaching us to live more creatively more humbly more into the call. All that is found in the Bible.
Allison Maus 05:02
I love that attention to it. It’s not just one sided, right? Like a relationship is mutual. The other day, I was sitting in a room full of mothers who… mother kids from, I don’t know, aged two to 38 years old. And in this conversation, a lot of them are talking about, you know, the hardships, their high schoolers are facing the life transitions that their adult children are still making at age 38. And I felt like that conversation held a lot of love, but also a lot of fear. And so I’m curious how I held out part of the conversation, and maybe even some of the things that then translate because of our fear into I don’t know, that maybe like cultural divides in some way, that restrict our communication and our ability to see our relationships with especially like adult children and parents. things that get in the way of yeah, having that mutuality.
Melanie Springer Mock 06:16
Yeah. So that last chapter, my book is actually on the way that perfect love drives out fear. And there’s so much in the world right now to be fearful of when my kids first transition to adulthood. And I held on to that fear, and I parented them, through my fear for them and for what they were experiencing in the world. And then there I had something happened to me. And it was an epiphany of a kind where I, I recognized that I had to let go of my fears, and, and just love them. And let go of my control over them, because I was so afraid. And in that moment of making that shift of choosing love, instead of fear, both my kids left the state to pursue different callings. And that’s a huge loss for me, because they’re not my they’re not here for me to see. But I did let go of that fear for what they were doing. And let them live into that. And both of them are thriving. And I think our relationship is thriving as well. Because I’m trying to just open my hands in my heart, and release the fear that I have for them. And I see that happening in young people too. Like there’s so much for them to be afraid of. Where now, you can go into a movie theater or a grocery store or a classroom and face the risk of being shot. I think young people, they could just close down in the face of that fear or the pandemic fear of climate crisis, fear, but they are responding. Many of them are responding creatively, and finding ways to explore justice movements, rather than just living into their fear. So I think we have a lot to learn from their own creative response to what is happening around us. Yeah,
Allison Maus 08:15
It’s definitely easier said than done, right? The practice of moving from fear into openness and love, right? It’s not something that’s a linear journey, I think that a lot of my transition into adulthood, while I was in college, was a lot of realizing like, “Oh, I’m not going to have it all figured out. Maybe ever,” right? And that can be a journey. And leaving room for myself to change to evolve to be more open. But also allowing my siblings to do the same, right, or my parents to do the same in ways that. Yeah, continue to allow us to have relationships and grow with one another without holding each other to the expectations of what our relationships were when we were much younger, or when we just our life circumstances were different, like pre pandemic or… Yeah, different levels of violence or different types of fears that have come out more strongly in recent years. Yeah.
Melanie Springer Mock 09:28
Oh, absolutely. And I think that’s such an important transition for young people to make and for their parents to make and to realize that as as parents, we’re continuing to evolve to that we don’t have it all figured out. And I just said to one of my sons in a text yesterday, like, “I don’t know what I’m doing. I have never parented 20 year old young men before. So I’m going to make mistakes and I’m going to need your loving mercy in that.” So it’s not just… It’s just a mutuality, again, that we always expect that the parents are going to extend loving mercy to the children, hopefully, our young people can make a shift to realize that they also are called to extend loving mercy to their parents or to the adults in their lives.
Allison Maus 10:27
I wonder if there are any significant moments in your life or in your relationships that I don’t know helped you to step into this shift from fear to love or that have shaped your understanding of parenting or even mentoring people who are transitioning into adulthood? As a professor?
Melanie Springer Mock 10:52
Oh, absolutely. There’s something at the center of our family life that made that transition for me, and, and for my children. So my husband and I are deeply pacifistic people, it’s like the core of our… it’s, it’s at the center of our belief system. He’s a Quaker, I’m a Mennonite… we’ve both written books about pacifism… We have deep, deep sense that Jesus calls us to peacemaking. And my, my son, after one year of college decided that he was going to enlist in the military, that he had a calling to go into the military. And so I, that was like when he told us that it was a very disruptive time in our family’s life, because my husband and I just had a sense that that’s not what you do, that Jesus would not call somebody into the military. And I had to make the shift. And my husband had to make the shift as well, to see that maybe Ben’s calling is different than ours, maybe he is hearing the call to enlist, and that we have to be open to letting him do that. Without… I mean, he was going to do it anyway, we had to be supportive in some way, even though it seems anathema to who we are and what what we believe. So he’s been in the Navy for 18 months now. And it hasn’t always been easy for our family, because because that has not been a part of our belief system. But I found that in my son’s decision to enlist in my encounter, then with that decision, and then entering into, like, military family culture that I didn’t even know about, and was off often, honestly kind of bigoted about, like, the whole structure of the culture around the military and putting flags out in your yard. And you know, all those patriotic videos that show up about soldiers. I was always very cynical about that. And just meeting other military families and experiencing their support helped me to understand my bigotry in a different way.
Allison Maus 13:06
I know that is a huge shift when, yeah, values or expectations we have for those who are significant to us take a different turn. And yeah, that sounds like a big moment that is offered you a lot of growth, but also probably a lot of challenges along the way. So thank you so much for sharing it, for sure. If you need to pause, let me know. I can shift the subject.
Melanie Springer Mock 13:40
That has been really interesting for our family. And then… So my husband and I are college professors and both of our kids have decided not to go to college. That’s been a challenge for us too, because we just assumed that our children would go to college and then get a free tuition here at George Fox, because both my husband and I teach here. So it’s been interesting. The way that presses against expectations to and my my youngest son is hoping to be a bartender which is challenging for my husband, especially because he grew up in a teetotaling family. So in some ways we can we can look at this and say, “My goodness, what did Ron and I do wrong so that our children want to have these callings, these vocations that are different than our value systems?” But in another way, I think it shows that people are their own selves. They’re they have autonomy and agency and making decisions. And it’s not what we might have wanted for either of them, but they’re living into their own calling. And I think one of the challenges as a parent of a young adult is just letting go and allowing them to live into those callings, whatever that may be. I see that tension so much play out as an English professor and students wanting to me During the English, feeling the calling to be a writer or an editor and having parents who don’t want them to do that, who want them to go into business or nursing in some way, they’ll have the certainty of a stable income. And somehow, I think we need to get beyond the sense that of pushing kids in certain directions and having that openness of allowing them to be exactly who God created them to be even that if that’s different than what we expected or imagined for them.
Allison Maus 15:35
Yeah, going back to the conversation I overheard of these parents talking. Right, I think a lot of their fears came from this deep care for their children, their adult children, and a longing for them to be safe to be cared for to be stable, right to be able to make their way in the world with confidence. And that intention is so needed and beautiful and good. And yet, sometimes, yeah, the expectations of how that specifically should look is what we need to let go of, it’s not that we’re letting go of, of the care for the person. And the love that we have for the person, but it’s yeah, the letting go of the specifics of how that how that might play out a little bit. And I feel like another thing in the letting go, that I’ve talked to a lot of parents about is like the letting go of like guilt and the shame on yourself to right when those expectations don’t get met. The the way that I’ve seen so many people measure their own worth is by the success of their children. And you also as a parent, or as a mentor, or caretaker like are an independent person. And while they’re deeply connected to your identity in ways I’ve never experienced as someone who’s not a parent. Yeah, it’s just sounds like a difficult landscape to navigate. So cheers to anyone who’s working through that.
Melanie Springer Mock 17:12
Yeah, absolutely. I think we need to change our expectations about what the successful, young adult or successful life looks like. And we can turn again to the wisdom and the Gospels and what Jesus says the successful looks, life looks like it’s not, you know, having a nice lucrative job and your own car and your own cell phone plan. That’s not what, that’s not what the successful life looks like. We’re calling to love God and love each other. And if we can do that, and do that, well, I think that should be the center of our calling. So I’ve tried to change the language I use when I’m talking to young people, we often ask them, you know, what are you going to do next? Or where are you going to go to college? Or what kind of job you’re gonna get? And I think that that even that language of calling what is God calling to you can be somewhat weaponized or used as a manipulation, like we say, setting up these expectations. Well, God’s calling you, you need to know what that calling is and pursue that. And sometimes whatever God’s call is, isn’t very, isn’t clear, isn’t definitive. And we have to be open to the idea that we have multiple callings in our lives over the course of our lives. And that what God calls us to is fundamentally, Micah 6:8, and then love God and love others. That’s what we’re called to. And everything else is superfluous to that.
Allison Maus 18:52
Oh that was so beautifully put, and I can’t wait for this episode to be released. So I can listen to that answer and comment again, because it’s, yeah… it’s something that I feel like I unpack with so many students I’ve been working on unpacking for myself. I’m unpacking it with siblings, parents, all all types of people. So thank you for saying that out loud in such a beautiful eloquent way.
Melanie Springer Mock 19:20
Yeah, thank you. In the book, I talk about this idea of calling in the way we we kind of use it as him and we can use it especially in Christian institutions as a manipulative tool. Because if God’s calling you to something then you don’t have to pay somebody a decent wage. If the if they’re responding to God’s call or if you’re responding to God’s call. You can get overworked because you’re doing God’s work. And so I think that the language around God’s called needs to change and I base that kind of I write about my own trajectory into becoming a college professor and I’m not really ever hearing that definitive call that this is absolutely what I should be doing. So I would look for signs everywhere that this is God’s call for me to be a professor. And always questioning Am I called to be a professor or not because I still get nervous on the first day of school, or I still think that I’m a lousy teacher after 22 years, because I don’t know how to explain a grammar rule or whatever. So maybe God’s not calling me to this. I mean, we have set up these expectations for God’s calling, that that creates tremendous pressure on all of us, instead of allowing us to just recognize that God may call us to things, those callings may be different over time. And even in the midst of that calling, things are still going still might be challenging. It’s not always going to be easy if it’s God’s call.
Allison Maus 20:55
We’ve talked a lot about some of the challenges, I wonder if we can shift toward hope. Do you have maybe a blessing or a word of hope that you can offer to folks who are either navigating early adulthood for themselves, or walking alongside and supporting those folks?
Melanie Springer Mock 21:15
I think again, of my students, and the hope I have in, in them and their creativity and their good humor and their brilliance. That my sons have as well, they are brilliant, funny, fun, deeply dedicated to justice. And I’m hoping that like we are, sometimes life seems like a dumpster fire. And maybe that’s because I’m on Twitter too much. And I see all the problems that are happening. But I really do have hope in our young people and the passion they bring to life and their wisdom. Sometimes some of my colleagues, grass grouse about kids these days. But I think kids these days are infinitely smarter than I was at that age and more aware of the world, they are more tolerant of others who are different. They’re aware of injustice, and they’re fighting against that injustice to make the world a better place. So I know it’s really hard for young people now, there’s so many challenges against them, but I have hope and who they are and who they’re becoming. And I am extraordinarily blessed, lucky to get to spend time with them every day, even if my own children aren’t here.
Allison Maus 22:39
Well, I’m gonna say thank you again to you, Melanie, for joining me for this conversation. I found a lot of value in it. And so I hope you did as well. And I hope that those who listened and were able to find some hope or glean something interesting from the conversation. I’m curious, before we go, if you could share, where people can find your book that’s coming out or follow along with your work if they’re curious to.
Melanie Springer Mock 23:03
Yes, thank you. So you can purchase my book at any bookseller. From Herald Press directly, or from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or support your independent local bookstore and order it from there, that would be great. I am most active on social media on Twitter at @SpringerMock, you can find my work there. Or on my website MelanieSpringerMock.com.
Allison Maus 23:31
Wonderful. Well, thank you again. And thank you to everyone who listened until we meet again, Peace be with you. Thank you.
Ben Wideman 23:41
Next week on ~ing Podcast, we sit down with Jennifer Garcia Bashaw, author of the new book, Scapegoats: The Gospel Through the Eyes of Victims.
Jennifer Garcia Bashaw 23:51
What’s interesting to me is that the ones who are doing this sort of work, are the churches that are on the periphery of the American church, if that makes sense. Evangelical churches in general dominate the American church landscape. And they have a hard time hearing this message. But there’s so many things under the overarching rubric of anti scapegoating, like, you know, anti racism work is in there, you know, anti sexism, anti ableism, like all the isms that we talked about. They have to do with the idea of people that we tend to scapegoat.
Ben Wideman 24:28
As always we’d like to thank our guests and all who support ~ing Podcast. Thank you for joining us on the journey. If you enjoyed the show, please leave us a review in your favorite podcasting app. And if you have something to share, send us a message at [email protected] or by leaving us a voicemail. ~ing Podcast is hosted by Reverend Allison Maus and Reverend Dr. Dennis Edwards. And produced by me, Ben Wideman. Views and opinions expressed on ~ing Podcast are those of our hosts and guests and may not represent that of Leader Magazine or MennoMedia. ~ing Podcast is a production of MennoMedia, a nonprofit publisher that creates thoughtful Anabaptist resources to enrich faith in a complex world. To find out more, visit us online at MennoMedia.org.