Last night Tad ended up working late (I hate those 14 hour days for him…:/). Well into the throes of cooking dinner when he called to tell me, I decided the kids and I would eat before he got home. I’ve often mused the sacredness of a meal together–whether with family or friends–there is perhaps no better "community" than enjoying time together with those you love, engaging in good conversation, breaking bread, drinking wine, whatever the occasion calls for.
To me, the table is a type of alter, not in the sense of sacramental worship, but nevertheless, sacred. Time, set apart, face-to-face, listening and hearing one another is important, valuable. As my children get older, I realize that the demands of their schedules will make a family meal more difficult. It would be very easy to let it go, but I will fight that. Dinner time is the slice of our day when we’re all together for just a few minutes without other distractions competing for attention.
Last night we had a conversation that would never have taken place, at least not as seemlessly as it did, apart from sitting together at our table. Out of the blue, and I don’t know why, I asked, "So, what do you think about Jesus?"
Thomas, 12, said, "What do you mean?"
Rachel, 14, said, "Uh, oh…what have you been reading?"
and Stephen, 9, said, "He’s God. He died for our sins."
I wasn’t letting it go. Our kids are in a Christian school. I was on staff at our church in SC. We’ve had Bible studies in our home and have been involved in "organized" religion and parachurch organizations (i.e., YoungLife) their whole lives. They’ve got a lot of head knowledge, a whole heckuva lot more than I did at their ages. Which, while not a bad thing, in fact a good thing, can lead to a prescribed faith which is anything but their own. Sooo, I asked the question to provoke them…to make them think…NOT to give me a "right" answer or to tell me what they thought I wanted to hear.
I want my kids to wonder…to doubt…to have the freedom to challenge what they’re being taught at school, at church, at home. I want them to learn how to do that respectfully, thoughtfully, honestly. I don’t want them to take our word for "it"…or their teachers…or pastors…or friends. That is difficult enough for adults to do (at least it was for me), and I want to help our children to develop this as their modus operandi.
I never want them to view the Bible as "Life’s little instruction book". Ugh. That reduces it to something much smaller than it was ever intended (a list of "to dos" and "to don’ts" as opposed to revealing the character and majesty and truth and beauty and glory of God). There’s a part of me that’s sad for those who hold tightly to the notion it holds literal answers for all of life’s questions and difficulties. I used to profess that, but I never really believed it (and didn’t even understand I didn’t believe it…). There are certainly contemporary issues that aren’t even addressed literally or directly in scripture. Now…those few hair-raising-on-your-neck statements being said (at least to my Bible literalist friends;) ), I do believe that knowing God and valuing your relationship with Him above any other, is the best way to "know" how to respond to any issue that comes your way–life or death and anything in between. And…the best way I know of to know God is by reading and meditating and praying through Scripture.
So, back to our conversation last night. It was fun…we laughed a good bit. I loved getting a glimpse into my children’s minds. They raised questions…I had few answers…but at least they were "safe" to share their real thoughts, without fear of ridicule or condemnation. I hate Tad wasn’t here to hear it (that’s part of the reason I’m writing now…so I can remember much of what I’d forget otherwise…:/). Here are a few thoughts and questions that came up:
"When I think of Jesus, usually the first thing I think of is the cross."
(Hmmm, a tortuous instrument that leads to an excruciating death. I mentioned that and it hurt the child’s feeling who said it, so I quickly noted that Jesus conquered death in His resurrection, and so he managed to redeem the savage death imagery of the cross into a beautiful image of life and victory…).
"Will all the people in heaven know us when we get there?" (Huh?) "You know, will like David or Moses give us a high five and be glad to see us? (that was a boy child)
"If you see God, does your hair really turn white?" (lol, they’re thinking Charlton Heston in "The Ten Commandments")
"When you get to heaven, do you stay the same age as when you die, but forever?"
"Do you think they play sports in heaven?"
"If I think about eternity, I can’t think about it." (Yeah, that one blows my mind, too).
"Do you eat in heaven?"
Somehow our conversation steered quickly off Jesus and onto heaven, which in and of itself is interesting to me. I didn’t even notice it until now that I’m writing and thinking about last night….
Good for you!
My parents were adament about dinner time. We ate together. And we talked. Some of the greatest theological discussions I had were over that dinner table.
I hope when we have kids, we can carry on that tradition.
Such a gem of a conversation! I know things like this are why my parents held dinner time as sacred, and why I hope to do the same.
So cool that your children ask questions about certain aspects of their faith and wonder about eternity and God. It shows they’re engaging with God, and the wondering surely leads them to pursue a deeper level of understanding.
I try to keep the dinner time as family time, but my husband’s schedule is so varied that he could get home anytime b/n 4pm and 8pm….so, I just keep the kids and me to a schedule and if he’s here, great. if not – oh well.
I’m impressed with the dinner conversation. That is the time to bring out those deep topics. More Americans should follow your lead.
I wish I’d been sitting there. I probably would have learned something.
And… I would not have had to cook.
We do that family dinner thing too – it’s tough though since we have sports activities 5 nights a week! (yes, every night) Sometimes it involves nothing but pancakes and bacon but we’re together and that’s what counts. Good for you for introducing complex topics of conversation – I am going to try to do better!!!
I think this was a neat conversation, and I too love to see how my kids minds work. They never cease to amaze. =)
I love the way you talk to your kids. Malissa & I used to have some of these conversations at night, after “lights out & quiet”.
Like, will we know everyone in Heaven, will we know each other in Heaven, will we have different names?
One day, she told me that it would be embarassing to meet a guy in Heaven named Obadiah & be like, “oh, who are you?” & then he’d tell you about his book in the Bible. I spent weeks reading all of the little books I’d skipped over.
Heather, you will. No. Doubt.
Erin, I absolutely loathe what is done so often in church (and in our case, in a Christian school). That is…we “force” our kids to regurgitate their “beliefs”, when they really haven’t had time…or maturity…to express many of those beliefs. Don’t get me wrong, I am all about “training a child…”, but I hope you can see what I’m talking about. It’s a disservice to them and to the Kingdom.
Karmyn, with a husband’s whack schedule it makes it harder, more challenging. I think the GREAT thing is you do it with your kids! Gosh, in about 10 years you’ll be amazed at how they talk with you! (It’ll be here before you know it).
Pamela, if you had been sitting here, I would have learned something! And I would LOVE for you to not have to cook by visiting with me! 🙂
Laurelwreath, just giving them time to think about this stuff is a gift (to them and to me) sometimes.
LCO, I smiled at your comment–such deep thoughts you and Malissa shared (I’m trying to remember if my sister and I ever went “deep”; as close as we are, I don’t remember that part).
Great…now I’ve gotta go study up on the minor prophets, lol;).
A very nice post Robin. Good to get it down so you don’t forget. Well, it’s flying around the blogosphere forever now!
I didn’t realize you send your kids to Christian school. We did too… from Grade 6 on. It was the best decision we ever made, although it cost us an arm and a leg. (Now that our kids are raised, I’m buying things I’ve never had… strange.) We have one more year of college to pay for, and then we’re DONE!
I’m glad you were able to rescue the crucifixion discussion with an uplifting remark about the resurrection. I still find that brutal scene difficult to deal with–and Easter’s coming soon.
I especially love this: “Will all the people in heaven know us when we get there?” (Huh?) “You know, will like David or Moses give us a high five and be glad to see us? (that was a boy child)”
I hope Tad was super-blessed by this post! :~)