Friday, October 12, 2012

Jesus Loves the Little Children!

My close and personal
friend Pat Conroy.
Okay, I met him once.
As I’ve gone on and on about, being a parent is a pretty heavy responsibility. Remember the book Beach Music by Pat Conroy (whom I’ve met, by the way?) In it, a group of siblings agonizes about their crazy mom and their dysfunctional childhood… and (SPOILER) toward the end, you find out that the mom and her brother had been homeless for a period, so her main focus as a parent had been to keep her kids in a home, clothed and fed. She felt that if she could do this, she was doing a good job. She had no idea she was supposed to be seeing to their self esteem, and all that new age parenting mumbo jumbo.

So, as a first world mom, who has a home and possibly too much to eat and more clothes than anyone needs (Need some? Call me.)… My main concerns would have to be raising a kid who respects himself and others and is kind, giving, loving. And also, raising a kid who is NOT an a-hole. The physical stuff is fairly easy… but this other stuff… Lord help me. Seriously… LORD… help me!!!

Lately, too, I have been hyper aware that I have a responsibility for his spiritual health… I’m sure that all parents have an idea of what they want their kids to absorb about the spiritual world that matches their own views. Even if it's a general attitude of relativism. In my case, I’d like to make sure he knows that God loves him unconditionally – more than anything he can possibly imagine… to make sure he doesn’t grow up with crazy creepy ideas of God. That… you got it, God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (I wonder how many time I’ve copied and pasted John 3:16 into this blog?)

I bought Bill this
Bible. He threw it
on the floor and
stepped on it.
When Bill was little, and not so vocal, we would read a bit of a kids’ Bible at bedtime every night. When we got through it, I bought a new one, presented it to him… and he threw it on the floor and stepped on it. Now, to be fair, Bill really hates change… But soon it became clear that he did not care for this particular ritual, so I let him start picking the books. Our bedtime reading has included everything from comic books to classics.

So… while we are no longer reading stories about David and Goliath or Noah and his animal friends every night, Bill DOES get exposed to spiritual matters in other ways. We attend church regularly. He’s not thrilled with Sunday school, but goes about every other week. The other weeks he sits in the church service with one of those black and white speckled notebooks and composes The Weekly Weirdo, his not-quite-weekly newspaper.

He also attends a fantastic Catholic school, which fills his head right up with catechismical thoughts. In addition, he hangs out with Grace and me quite a bit, so picks up on little things we say to one another… for instance when something good happens, one of us will say, simply and reverently, “The King.” Or we’ll discuss ad nauseum the finer points of the most recent church sermon or a pop song we heard that speaks God’s grace to our frazzled minds.

Bill's first day of Catholic School
And though he seems, as is probably typical of a strapping, boyish, 8-year-old boy, supremely uninterested in spiritual matters, he will often shock me with observations or questions that prove that his fertile little brain is chewing over the ideas I thought were floating in the space far above his little head.

Like one day last weekend, he said that everyone has a “being” that they imagine looks after them, like a guardian angel, and that this “being” is, in actuality, Jesus… whether the person recognized Him or not. I was flabbergasted. I mean, this is real stuff. It’s a bit like the God-shaped hole in every person that St. Augustine talked about… or the beautiful island that John, the main character in C.S. Lewis’ novel Pilgrim’s Regress, searches for. It’s there, but people will look everywhere else, call it anything else.

He hasn't read it,
but Bill already
"gets" The
Pilgrim's Regress.
Another day he asked me, “What if Adam and Eve had never fallen?” Um… I don’t know, Bill, what do YOU think? (I had to stall; I had no idea…!) He went on to say that he thought that things would be “old-timey.” He had a hard time explaining why, but I think he was trying to say that people would have been satisfied, and not needed to invent things.

The other question he asked is, if Jesus gave us eternal life, where are the people like Noah and Moses who died before He opened that door? Now, I think this is an FAQ, but I was only able to answer it in any real way by doing a little research.

Jim Abrahamson,
one of the best
teachers I ever
sat still for.
What I’m trying to say here is that my brilliant son’s brain and heart are growing, and I feel like I really need to keep up… to be able to answer his questions. In Deuteronomy the Israelites are told, “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.Thank goodness I took all those classes from Jim Abrahamson, right? I am going to need that kind of critical thinking if I’m going to keep up with my little genius.

Here’s a scary thing that Jesus said: “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea.” (Mark 9) So… what if I say something wrong, or neglect my duty in this? Will I be wearing a figurative millstone necklace?

Jesus loves kids!
I can only do what I can do… I’m going to keep in mind that Jesus LOVES kids. And WANTS them around. He did say, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” (Luke 18) So, while I care about Bill’s spiritual growth, God cares even more.

When I was a new Christian, and feeling every implication of everything I learned, I remember being worried about my siblings. Did they know Jesus? I remember having a dream in which one of my sisters committed some kind of crime. So I went to our pastor (again, Jim Abrahamson) and tried to give him a large check to get her out of whatever it is she had done, but Jim wouldn’t take it. I remember thinking, in the dream, “It’s not my responsibility.”

Out! Out! Damn Spot!
So… even though Paul seemed to think that failure to reach people equaled blood on his hands, he also said that telling people is enough: “I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of any of you. For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God.” (Acts 20)

Thank the actual God for that. Because if you’re reading this, then I’ve done my part. I can relax and stop worrying about bloody hands. (Out! Out! Damn spot!) It fits with the time Jesus told his disciples that if a town doesn’t receive them graciously, then just move on. Well, I can hardly move on from my kid, so I just need to move on to another topic. And pray. And know that he is watching me. 

Bill makes his church debut.
Hope he'll stick around.
When we were growing up, we went to a “mainstream” Methodist Church, but matters of theology weren’t discussed in our home. If my parents reflected on them, I’ll never know. In fact, I was allowed to skip Sunday school for a year by claiming that the intensely Evangelical couple (bordering on Pentecostal) that taught it creeped me out. I’m not proud that I pulled that stunt, but there it is. That said, when, in later years, I sought God, Christianity was the first place I looked… I’d guess BECAUSE of my exposure to a church, no matter how mild.

In conclusion, I guess my responsibility with regards to the spiritual care of my child, goes hand in hand with my responsibility to share God’s love with the world. In this case, my MO is mostly to follow the advice given to me many years ago by Randy Russell, another of our church’s pastors. And that was, to be myself. Here’s hoping that will suffice.

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