In my church we have a yearly tradition of lay people coming up and giving their version of a personal “Faith Journey” this time of year. But it’s a small congregation-really a small town-and we’re pretty much at the end of people willing to do so. But we have one more resource; the kids. So the 3 oldest kids have been asked for consecutive Sundays in church to give their own version of a faith journey. It can be a talk about what God means to him or her, or what they think of the church or the world and their place in either.
This past Sunday was Big T’s turn. He was at first excited about it, then nervous, then downright tearfully fearful. On the Saturday before, we went for a walk amidst the fresh fallen snow that blanketed our rural road, and we got it all out, and he talked about what was bothering him. The thing I’ve realized is that, at 10 years old, this kid has a lot going on in his head. I don’t want to seem to be bragging, but I think—and in a sense I hope—it’s more than other 10 year olds. Certainly more than I had going on in there at his age. Chaos and depth, fear and hopes, all jumbled in odd contexts of popular culture and fantasy fiction.
The gist of his concern was that he felt I was asking him—no, requiring him—to stand up in front of the church and bear his soul, telling them his most personal thoughts that he never even necessarily told me or his Mom. This came out in a dribble, then a flood of anger and resentfulness that caught me by surprise. But that’s the opportunity of parenting, isn’t it? The chance to explain our actions, what we would and would not ever require of our kids, and the hope that if those lines ever get blurred, that the child would have the strength and willingness to call us on it.
Of course he doesn’t have to say anything he doesn’t want to, or do anything in that context that he wouldn’t want to. That’s what I communicated. That’s what he heard. It’s a chance to say what he thought, and opportunity to share a story or two and reveal what he wanted to and nothing more. Not an inch more than he wanted to give, or to show, or to reveal. It’s an opportunity, not a punishment. It’s a chance, not a requirement.
After that, we went back, and he was able to, relatively quickly, put down into words what he is willing to say about God, and his belief. After a week of his really being terrified of the act, its completion (the writing at least) went so quickly as to almost be funny. He finished in about an hour.
And the thing is, he was quite proud of what he’d done. And that was the opportunity I really wanted for him.
Later this week, with his permission, I will post what he had to say.