Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Safer Not To Crow

"It's safer, it's safer, not to crow. Never prophesy unless you know....We'll never deny you, even if we have to die". Crows from the Psalters album Carry the Bones

Five months since my last post. A lot has happened in that time. Mostly, some things happened professionally that I would have rather not had experienced. This led me to begin working at VOA part time with kids whose lives are, well, not quite the American dream.

Anyway, feeling like a failure as a man didn't really inspire me to write on a parenting blog. But I've been doing some reading and some thinking and there are some things that need to be said. The above quote from the Psalters made me realize how often I have followed that 'advice' and kept my mouth shut when I should have spoken up. It got me thinking also about the lies we tell our children...

1. 'You can be whatever you want when you grow up'. Ok, that's just not true. It's something a good capitalist should believe, you know, pull yourself up with your own bootstraps. I am 5'9 and 150 pounds. I was never going to be a professional basketball player no matter how hard I tried. Some people simply aren't smart enough to become, for example, doctors. Most of us are never going to be president because we don't have enough finances to back a successful smear campaign against our rivals! Instead we should be saying: You can be WHOEVER you want to be when you grow up. You might not be the best and brightest, but the gifts God gives (aka the fruits of the Spirit, aka love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control) are available to everyone. Who you are is more important than what you are anyway.

2. 'Being a Christian will make your life better'. In the Bible horrible things happen to Christians---especially the most faithful ones. Can we dispense of the idea that God is somehow working on our behalf to help us get jobs or make money or find the right spouse? He is not helping Tim Tebow (or anyone else) win football games. If God is intervening on the earth, it is most likely in the ways Jesus did: healing the sick, feeding the hungry, declaring freedom to captives. And if God is not intervening in these ways it's because we're too busy asking Him to bless our every endeavor.
This is particularly challenging with kids because who doesn't want the best for their kids? I'm willing (I think) to accept the dangers associated with following Christ, but are my kids? I suppose the only answer is to realize that the dangers of following the American dream are even greater...

3. 'Discipleship doesn't require a significant life change.' This is sort of a corollary to the first one. I think we teach this to our kids in many little ways throughout the day. Any time we give in to the American way of hoarding wealth, any time we compromise what we know to be true, whenever we put our own wants in front of others' needs, we are teaching this lesson. (I hate to say it, because I like pro soccer, but our obsession with professional sports falls in this category as well. Economically, pro sports are an abomination that we are all a part of. I mean, how can we justify paying these athletes these obscene amounts of money to do what they do? I brought this up to a student awhile back and he said: "Well, good for them {the athletes} for working hard to make that money." Have we lost all ability to think critically about economics? Go read The Fear of Beggars by Kelly Johnson)
I remember one time in particular, I just had a discussion with a student about the type of media we listen to and why I didn't like a particular artist's work. When her dad came to pick her up, guess what was on the radio...
Another time, a student told me a story about seeing a family at her church, it was a mom and several kids. The kids didn't have coats, and one of them didn't have shoes. So she took off her shoes and tried to give them to the family---but my student's mom stopped her. How often do we do this to our own kids?

4. 'Everything happens for a reason.' Sometimes that reason is that we live in a fallen world where there is pain, injustice and fear. If you want to ruin a child's theology at a young age, just tell them everything happens for a reason when her mom gets cancer or his dad goes to jail.

5. 'Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny are real'. Ok, that's just for comedic relief. Although for some people it seems to be a big issue. (Come on though, bunnies don't even lay eggs.)

As I review this post it seems, well, negative and maybe schizophrenic--I don't want it to be that way. (Some people in the past have misinterpreted passion as anger...easy to do...I think Jesus was passionate, so was MLK Jr.)

But it has become clear to me that the best gift I can give my kids is to live the truth in front of them. I can display unconditional love in my life and an honest seeking of the good life that comes not at the expense of others but with others as my companions. Our world has become so dizzyingly complex that it is almost impossible to live a life of integrity. I can only hope to show my kids what I hope to be a faithful lifestyle.

"If I am crazy, it's because I refuse to be crazy in the same way that the world has gone crazy." Peter Maurin

Go. Be. Crazy. Your kids need you to be. Just not in the same way the world is crazy.