For several consecutive summers, I dined on a lunch of bologna sandwiches (complete with miracle whip and cheese from a plastic square), Kraft Macaroni ‘n Cheese (rebranded “Easy Mac” when I was in college, though I don’t believe the level of difficulty for preparedness ever really changed) and Dinty Moore Beef Stew.
Take a guess what makes me puke in my mouth upon seeing the imagery in my mind?
Aside my Michael Pollen-esque thoughts on processed foods and I still find the menu inedible. Blah. If I did my research I could tell you the name of the phenomenon of finding something adverse by its abundance. Something becomes so readily available that it looses its appeal. You’re fed the meal so often you begin to dislike the lunch hour.
This is a deep fear of mine for my children and Jesus.
We are the proverbial “Christian home.” We make the act of going to church a regular occurrence, not an option for better living. We make a point to say our prayers before bed and to give thanks before a meal. But I don’t want these things to become bologna.
Just yesterday my music selection made me think of this. Of course I turned on David Crowder because a) I love it and b) it’s a good thing to feed into young minds. Probably better than the Live that husband was tuned to while fixing the sink (not that I’m a Christian music purist. I see many, many advantages to having our eyes and ears open to the world… a different post though). But I began to wonder if my zeal of Crowder might begin to foster a bit of an eye roll or near-audible groan in the future. “Mom, do we have to be a little less pretty and a lot more loud, again?” Dear child, YOU SAY THIS LIKE IT’S A BAD THING!
As parents, it’s our right, responsibility and duty to be the establishers of normal in the home. If you ask me, this is the key to childrearing. All food, sleep and behavior issues become tied to how we frame “normal” in the home. In our house, we eat a variety of foods and we have to take at least one bite of everything. In our house, we ask to be excused before leaving the table. In our house we clean up before going to bed. In our house we wash our hair on Saturday nights. In our house, we go to church on Sunday and pray before a meal. In our house, we don’t use words like “butt” (sub: buns) or call names. Not that any one of us tries to evade the normal on a regular basis. But there are few surprises in terms of what is expected.
So if “in our house” seeking Jesus is the norm, how do we prevent it from becoming a chore, right alongside finishing the broccoli or staying in bed until 7? The deepest parts of me wants to prevent the eye rolls when I say, “it’s time to go to church!” I want so badly for the Spirit to put its claws into my children at a young age, urging them to take part in these healthy practices because they want to know Jesus, not because “in our house” we have to.
But according to reality, this probably won’t be the case. Though paving a spiritual road is my duty, that doesn’t mean it’s guaranteed results. There are no promises or guarantees with parenting, only guiding principles. Formulas rarely have a 100% accuracy.
So perhaps I should borrow from the Jewish tradition, which holds that behavior begets emotion and heart. That by continually participating in the act of seeking, we will find. Again, it’s not another guarantee. Short of brainwashing, few religious groups have found a full-proof plan. And the goal isn’t right behavior, but a pure heart.
If I had to guess, such lofty goals can only be attained through modeling and prayer, not through whatever practice of “normal” I employ. Perhaps by seeing a life of seeking after Jesus – in their parents, but also in the people of the Church that surround them and support them – they’ll be inclined to participate. Much like arriving at a swimming with everyone in the pool, you end up wanting to put on your suit.
So perhaps the key isn’t getting the kids dressed; it’s taking them to a good party. We pack up the sunscreen and the towels and hope that, in time, the kids say “I’m ready to dive in.” But the chances of that happening are slim if we don’t show up. And viewing a movie or a book about a pool party probably won’t do the trick, either. Rather, it’s showing them what it means to get wet.