My husband was raised in a religious tradition that kept their distance from all things worldly. In a remote farming community with no radio or TV in his home, his thoughts on what the heck the world was like out there was mostly influenced by what he heard from the pulpit. In brief, the world was anything that wasn't of their church. Capisce? He heard countless messages about those other pretend wanna-be Christians of other faiths who were worldly and therefore lost, and he heard plenty about the people who weren't even pretending, who ran around and drank, smoked and danced.
When my husband decided the night before his baptism that he simply couldn't go through with it, he believed he only had one other choice. He had to act like that wicked world out there. So he promptly bought a pack of smokes, went to the bar and got drunk. After all, that's what those not of his parent's church did, right? It was the starkest black and white thinking ever. He stumbled into his parents bedroom in the wee hours of the morning smelling like the bar, and told them he wouldn't be getting baptized that morning. This many years later we can only imagine the pain they would have felt. He had already made a profession of faith adequate to pass the scrutiny of an all member meeting as to whether his conversion was the genuine thing. The embarrassment at having their son be a no-show for that all important rite that tied him forever to membership in their church and his ticket to heaven, must have been most difficult.
I was wondering today just how much kinship there is in my thinking with that of his parent's church. I shudder at thinking that outloud here but the reality is that it does flit in and out of my head. No, I don't doubt my now adult children's place with God. Or do I? I keep stubbing my toe on thoughts that rise to the surface and embarrass me. Thoughts that I just want my adult kids to at least look like they are doing the right thing. Could they at least go to church, not swear, not drink, not smoke dope, not do this that and the other thing? I can easily get hung up on the external. I hate it when I see how skilled I am at talking out of both sides of my mouth at once. I hate it that I often seem to want them to project the acceptable image with less concern about the internal workings of their heart than the outer actions of their lives. Just how human can they be and still be okay with God? In their mind, fully human.
It all seems so ironic. I was raised in that scary worldly world my husband was taught to fear while he was raised in the shelter of a community that shunned it all. Yet today my husband never gets his insides in a knot over the behaviour of his kids. It's not that he doesn't get concerned but he never automatically ties their behaviour to their heart relationship with God. Oh man, I feel like I am digging a bigger hole the more I try to explain my thoughts. I can hear some of you saying that you can't divorce the two. I don't know about you but if my actions and attitudes are a reflection 24/7 of my heart relationship with God then I am in big trouble. It is only recently that I have been able to relax enough to know and I mean, know that God reads my heart and understands my humanity far better than I do. I hold my humanity against myself more so than God does.
Okay. In the circles we have raised our kids in if a kid was drinking or smoking dope or going to the bar or doing any number of other things, it has always been equated with them walking away from God. There was no wiggle room. There wouldn't be a sigh of relief until they were back going to church and not doing that stuff. And I wonder why it has to be that way? I think about all the things I struggle with in my walk and how people don't doubt my relationship with God because of it. They give me the room to be human but that doesn't always seem to be the case with our young adults/teenagers. Why is that? And why can't they stumble on the way and be supported as they try to keep on the path? Oh man, someone please read between the lines and get what I am trying to say.
I was thinking today of our kids' pastor and how I would answer him if he asked me how they were doing. And how I couldn't say that they were doing this that and the other thing because his concern for them would overshadow all else. He wouldn't stop being concerned for them until they stopped doing these things. They wouldn't be okay with God unless they did. And how I wouldn't be able to find the words to tell him that God was underpinning their life despite how it looked. And that none of them doubted how firm a grip God had on them.
Maybe that is what bugs me. My kids are freer to live in the grace of God than I am. They accept they are human and feel at ease with their humanity. They know that their intrinsic worth in the sight of God remains the same. Always. In my mind, mine tends to fluctuate. They don't equate a list of behaviours with being in or out with God. That they believe this sometimes makes me feel like I have failed.
Our kids come to us and tell us what they are doing. I realized today that they don't fear condemnation from us for it. Oh, I do throw a great hissy fit, there's no doubt about it. Because of that they go to their dad first and me (sometimes) never, (most times) later. They aren't fessing up necessarily. They are just sharing their experiences with him honestly and openly. He tells them how he sees it but he doesn't judge them for their experimenting. He has seen how God has kept him in His sight through his own life, and trusts that God will do the same for his kids. Maybe what I am seeing is that because of how approachable their dad is, my kids are not scared of God. And I want them to be. A bit. Enough to walk my line.
I had lunch with my oldest son today. He is experimenting with dope a bit. He talks about it freely. Not bragging. Not keeping secrets either, though. We talk about addiction and his decision long ago not to drink because of the generational alcohol addicition in my family. We talk about the dangers of things becoming coping mechanisms and stress reducers. We talk freely about it. I'd rather he didn't experiment at all. He knows it. We talk about things his brother is doing. He tells me he is shocked I didn't kill his brother for his own recent admission of things that could get any mother's shirt in a knot. My penchant for temper tantrums is still intact and it just about kills me to have to respond to it all like I'm an adult too. They are so matter of fact about life and so free to admit this or that wasn't a good choice without any embarrassment. And free to remind me it is their choice when they continue to make a different choice than I would.
I sit here and wonder about my trust level in God, in my kids, in the world. How much easier it would be to belong to a tradition that spelled it all out and kept everyone in bondage under the guise of being right with God. How much I still find that desirable and abhorrent both. It should come as no surprise to me that if I struggle with wanting to clean up this blog post and portray a different reality that I would definitely want my kids to portray an image to those they actually meet in person in their day to day lives.