What I'll Leave You
“You shall tell your son on that day, ‘It is because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.’”*
Every Sunday for 5 hours. All your friends sleep in, but not you three. Up by 7:30, disheveled, out of the door by 7:55. Some pastors’ kids have it harder. At least we don’t have night or mid-week services. But we do set up every Sunday morning--sound system, welcome table, kids’ classroom, coffee and snacks. At different times, you know how to help with these jobs, how much coffee goes into the industrial machine, where to find the sign-up sheet for parents when they drop off their kids, how to queue up the DVD in the player for the children’s class.
|On a minor note, I hope to leave you a love|
of indoor tulips in winter.
At times you put up with being uncomfortable, hungry, tired. You encounter the transient homeless population, many of whom prove mentally ill, unable to participate in our services without interrupting and distracting. Rarely, the situation calls for you having a bodyguard, usually your grandfather. This is an inevitability of urban church.
Few of your friends relate to your Sunday experience. Hardly any of them go to church on Christmas and Easter, let alone give five hours a weekend to it. Of course, there are positives for you. You can bring friends, and sometimes you do. You can try expressing yourselves on the worship band, playing instruments, harmonizing. At Christmastime you are the children’s program. People smile and ooh and aaah at your shared gifts.
And, you get great food every Sunday. I lose track of exactly how many croissants, muffins, macarons or gourmet coffees you have had been handed or helped yourselves to by noon. Also, you have always been well-loved by the people in our small congregation, by college students and grandparents alike. They exclaim over you three like they might exclaim over a sprawling garden in mid-summer, your fruitfulness and coming-into-being on full display (the drawback or benefit of being a pastor’s kid, depending on the day, I guess). They want to hear about your shows and songs, Girl Scout cookies, boyfriends and friends-who-are-boys, college plans and political opinions.
However, I fear at times that there’s a disconnection between our Sunday habits and the core of your hearts. When there’s tension between us for all the reasons there might be tension between a mother and her daughters, Sundays probably feel to you like an arbitrary intrusion, even though you three have been baptized and confessed your faith, and would defend your right to be respected in it. And, even when we’re connected and laughter flows between us easily, I think the full significance of what we do on Sundays is still probably a little lost on you.
Like most people, I assume some of your important theological work is not done head-on, but that it's formed in the liminal spaces spaces between news, conversations with peers, late-night comedy, your mother’s sermons, the liturgical prayers you utter with the rest of the faithful on Sunday mornings. I’m sure the seeds of Vacation Bible School scripture verses and songs are implanted deep within you, but I’m also sure you are afflicted by doubt in the way everyone who believes is shaped by seasons of questioning and searching. I’ve been a pastor and follower long enough to know doubt is the shadow side of faith.
But, sometimes I worry that all this God-centered activity could somehow serve as a vaccination against the reality of the Kingdom of Heaven in your midst. If anyone lives for too long with the structure of religion and without the power of the Spirit--the heart connection, the ongoing spiritual transformation--well, isn’t that just like an inoculation for polio, ensuring that they never get it?
Sometimes I want to hold you by the shoulders and speak earnestly as I gaze into your eyes and repeat the words of the Israelite*: “It is all because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt!” like I’m explaining firsthand the miraculous and heroic way I was saved from a car fire after a freeway pile-up. I know you weren’t there when I was 14 or 16 or 27 years old. So, you don’t know the prayers I prayed and the miracles I saw. (I mean, you know, in theory. I’ve told you. But you don’t rehearse it all to yourselves the way I do.) If you have not prayed your own desperate prayers and experienced firsthand a rescue from a car on fire, then I imagine it’d be even harder to keep in the forefront of your mind why and how He is the beginning of every solution to every problem.
And by “He” I mean God the Father, Jesus the Son, God the Holy Spirit: Love and Truth, which begin and end and cannot be separated from the Godhead-three-in-one who is above all and within all and behind us and around us.
Daughters of mine, it was because of what the Lord did for me that I could not but choose this life, this faith-tested, prayer-stained, tear-saturated journey of starting a church in a place where hardly anyone gets excited about a new church. Right now, your ages don’t permit me an eager audience to explain it over and over, so I’m writing this here:
My life has depended on Him; He alone is all I have of value to leave you when I'm gone.
I pray that when you are grown you will investigate the faith of your mother like your life depends on it. And, I pray you discover that he is the same for you today as he was for me yesterday and will be for us all tomorrow and forever.
So beautiful, Heather. Brought a wave of emotion to me as we wait to welcome our son into the world in just one short month. Thank you for your wisdom and words.ReplyDelete