We have enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another —Jonathan Swift
And there’s the rub.
I do not prescribe to Religion (with a capital R; as defined by general society). I do pursue (follow, worship) Christ religiously. There is a difference. One is a noun that often implies that my practices and activities alone can get me to God and Heaven. The other is an adverb that describes the intensity and consistency of my desire for Him in my life. The latter indicates a relationship not unlike a child’s pursuit of a parent or, if that doesn’t grab you, a lover of their beloved.
However, I do think it’s important for me as a parent to examine my notions of religion in order to understand and position Christ as a viable option for my child who, inevitably—and if I’ve done my job right in teaching her to think critically—,will find herself skeptical of Christianity: The Religion.
My first thought when I hear people say that religion is the “opiate of the masses” is…then why isn’t everyone high? Because according to its very definition, we all participate in religious activity.
Religious: scrupulously faithful; conscientious; something one believes in and follows devotedly; ritual observance (dictionary.com)
In other words, most of us spend our lives pursuing [fill in the blank] religiously. If that weren’t the case, then some of us—not me, unfortunately—wouldn’t show up at the gym at 5am in pursuit of health, or maybe less prudent, the ideal body. Others of us wouldn’t show up at work on time, every day, sometimes early—again, not me—in pursuit of money or purpose. Sundays find just as many people parked on the couch waiting for the next football game as it does people parked on a pew waiting for a sermon.
None of these are wrong (in and of themselves). Yet only one is scrutinized as foolish.
Still, I get it. I understand why some folks run as far away from the church as they possibly can. Particularly when they find out that so many of us “church folk” would rather spend our time shouting this or that’s group’s sins from the mountaintops instead of extending the love, grace and mercy God has given us for our own sins; you know, the ones we hide in the closet or sweep under the proverbial rug.
But that’s religion for you. A list of dos and don’ts without any clarity on the whys or why nots.
See right now, I can tell K to do something because “Mommy said so” and she’ll do it. Because she’s two. At 12 or 22, she’s going to question it (even if only in her own mind).
And guess what? I WANT her to do just that.
In fact, it’s cute now that whenever she hurts herself, she places her hand over the boo-boo and says, “In Jesus name, Amen.” But when she gets older, I’m fairly certain she’s going to demand some context for that.
To me, that’s an absolutely wonderful thing.
When the time comes for her to ask me about this faith I’ve taught her—when she begins to demand the whys and why nots—my answer cannot be, “Because Jesus said so,” even if I believe that’s at the core of it all.
My answer needs to affirm her burgeoning intellect while still helping her develop her own faith. My answer needs to confirm for her that God is both an awesome, wonderful mystery (because is God really God if we understand Him completely?) AND someone who she can know intimately.
I will start by telling her my story. As a legacy, I will pass on my testimony to her.
I won’t tell her how many Sundays I went to church, how many scriptures I read, or all the sins I was able to avoid.
Don’t get me wrong: Church is good. Reading scripture is great. Avoiding sin is awesome.
But I don’t know how much of my “how to be a good Christian” list will help her as she embarks on her own life’s journey.
No, I will most likely tell her about the sins I couldn’t avoid and how Jesus loved me, in spite of me. How when I thought all was lost and depression and anxiety was going to take me out of here, it was my faith in God’s provision, healing, and love that sustained me. I will share with her about how I was forgiven and how I learned to forgive.
And I will hope that she gets it.
Given the mad, mad, mad world we live in today, I know I have tough task ahead. But for the first time since I’ve been on this motherhood ride, I’m beginning to believe that I’m equipped for the job.
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This post is the latest in Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts’ “Faith & Motherhood” series.
Tracey Michae'l is a writer and educator based out of the Philadelphia area. She is a wife to William and a mother to a beautiful two-year old little girl. You can find her on the web at www.traceymlewis.com.