Recently someone I know posted a picture of himself being baptized as an infant. His caption had some sort of smart ass sentiment about “water boarding” and “for shame…I was just a baby.”
It got me thinking. I started attending church at the same age he was in the picture. That was about 41 years ago. And church has looked like many different things over that time, including the last two years where I haven’t gone to church really at all…
Why did my parents do it? Why was I given a head bath at a mass in 1972 in Ohio, one winter day? Why did they choose Catholic over Lutheran over Episcopalian over Baptist over some other brand name denomination? Why did I go to CCD, First Confession, First Communion, Confirmation? Why did we give thanks before meals, pray before bed, talk about our problems and apologize, talk to God and about Him with one another? Was it just so I could wear pretty dresses once a week? Was it strictly out of social obligation? Was it because our grandparents expected it or to escape the gates of hell? Why did we “leave” the local catholic church, anyway, and how is it we wound up in the different kinds of churches since then? How come some people danced and clapped their hands while others were solemn?
One attribute I wholeheartedly embrace as a middle-child is that of peace maker. I will believe the best in you to a fault, and so, I imagine that next to historical conviction, my parents raised me with faith not to cram their own beliefs down my throat or so us girls would fit a mold and be perfect, but so we would always hear from them and know from God that God is good, God made us, He loves us without condition and wants us to love others the same way because life is complicated, messy, and painful, and that He will come back for us one day, which is a good thing, not scary.
I’ve heard there are worse things parents can do to a child…I’m grateful my parents chose this form of “abuse” as some would see it.
How tragic…a child was raised with loving parents who made mistakes and were learning it as they went along seeking Wisdom smarter than themselves, but deep down, at the end of each day, knew God was real even though she couldn’t see Him, and that He loved her. For shame…
The peacemaker middle-child in me isn’t a score keeper. On our family faith journey we haven’t always done everything right. On my personal journey with the Lord, I couldn’t even begin to tell you all the mistakes I have made…you can do the math: I dedicated my life to serving the Lord on May 10, 1987…if on average I screwed up 3 dozen times a day, to be conservative, that adds up to a whole lotta thankfulness for Grace and Forgiveness, that’s all I know.
Last night Emily and I snuggled on the couch and watched, “Parental Guidance.” All parents and kids should see this film together. There are some fabulous lessons all around. In one scene Billy Crystal and Marisa Tomei, father and daughter in the film, are in the kitchen late at night after the culmination of a weeks worth of fighting and disagreements and misunderstandings and major underlying passive aggressive anger from the past. The film is a comedy, but I was bawling. Tomei’s character had set up her life in such a way to do everything opposite from the way her parents raised her, a clear statement to them that they pretty much sucked/aka she could do it better, without their help, and quite perfectly, thankyouverymuch.
There are things I have done differently as a young woman, mom, wife, and follower of Christ than my parents, and their parents, and their parents before them. And I’ve done many things the same. Good and bad, because I am a human.
I know I will make many more mistakes in parenting as long as I’m on this earth. I’ve already screwed my kids up a little, I’ll admit. But if when they are older the worst thing they can say about me is that I prayed and asked God’s help in how to show them how much I loved them, well, then, I’m willing to take that risk. We cannot force our children to believe what we believe, and it very well may break our hearts if they don’t, but we can love them…yep, that part is up to us.
Just make sure you love them with all of your guts…because holding some of your love back just because it may rip out your heart will only leave you never really knowing what it’s like to fully live.