So I am sitting here at Panera with my good friend Aly and our two laptops. We just updated the look of my blog (and by "we" I mean Aly patiently talked me through it without laughing in my face about my computer illiteracy issues) and then we got to talking.
This morning on GMA, I saw an interview with Meryl Streep about her new movie, "Doubt". During the interview Diane Sawyer asked Meryl some questions about her personal history and experience with "religion". In the course of that discussion Streep made a comment that her children didn't have her religious beliefs "imposed" on them.
Something about that made the hair on the back of my neck stand up a bit. I think because I live in the Bible belt and attend a southern Baptist church, I am overly sensitive to the notion that we are "programming" our children with religion. The thought creeps me out, and yet I imagine to a good percentage of Americans that is the perception.
So Aly and I got to discussing. Here's what we think.
Yep. I teach my sons the Bible. I take them to church and Sunday school. They sing Bible songs and we try to memorize Scripture. And I will readily admit, none of that has an iota of redeeming value in and of itself, and none of what we do guarantees my sons will be lifelong followers of Christ. My job is to teach and train. I cannot convict, I cannot convert. But I would be remiss and irresponsible if I didn't instruct...if I didn't explain the way Mark and I - the two people they know most intimately and watch most intently - live the way we do. God will do the heart work, sure. Truth is truth whether they hear it from me or not. In the meanwhile what I do is not an imposition, it's information.
(Neck hair slowly laying down...) :)
Aly and I also got to talking about how we think one of the greatest issues plaguing the church today is Christian gluttony. As believers, we feast on Bible Study and programs, sermons and self centered faith. It is all about us and what Jesus can do for us. We take in and we take in, and at some point we either forget to give out or we so nastily regurgitate religiosity that it appeals to no one. Inward focused= fat, lazy believers. Aly and I will admit that we can be lulled into the tryptophan of "church" all too easily. But it is unsatisfying to all parties involved.
I realize that it may seem like these two points contradict each other. Here I am defending the spiritual instruction of my kids and then decrying the gluttony of "feed, feed, feed". Mark and I are compelled by love to share what we know and then to give our boys opportunities to walk it out in their own lives. It's a balancing act based on maturity and season. In and out. Spiritual digestion.
Do Aly and I have it all figured out? Obviously not. (But we're cute...) But we both know that what unbelievers see can often be smoke and mirrors. But knowing Jesus, really knowing Him can't be programmed or contained, the same as any other authentic and powerful relationship in our lives.
I think the old saying, "Sometimes you can't see the forest for the trees" can apply to faith too. There's nothing wrong with the trees, except when they become all you see. I have spent a lot of time staring at bark. There is a more panoramic view.