Thursday, March 5, 2009

Stealing past watchful dragons - from death to kids

Thirty people attended last night's class on death and dying. That's a lot for our church. This topic has hit a nerve in people, including me. In preparing for this class on death, it's become clear how completely unprepared I am for my death. I think of myself as just leaving the "formation" phase of life. I assume I'm about one third of the way done with life (I'm 34). I'm satisfied professionally, have had a basically amazing life till now, love my family, and have had enough adventure and fun to last a good long time.

I am content in a way I haven't been before, but there are major life milestones I hope are ahead of me: marriage, children, owning a home etc. If I were diagnosed with a terminal illness right now, I would have a hard time trusting God that my life was complete. hmmmm. Perhaps I need this class as much as anyone.

Well...not too much time to get stuck in those reflections because we've got Faithful Families tonight and I'm switching gears to children. Our children and family program is focused on equipping parents to raise faithful children. For most children, home (not church) is where they explore faith. We know that it's a challenge for parents to address this aspect of parenting. That's one reason we have Faithful Families. Every church season, we do activities and model faithful conversation for the whole family. In planning for tonight's event on Lent, I was surfing the web and came across a great website I recommend to parents of young children.

Faith at is written by an episcopalian mom. It's theologically in keeping with the kinds of things we Lutherans teach our kids (grace first, baptism as pure gift, the gospel as your story too) and the writer has assembled a top-notch set of resources. One resource she mentions is "godly play." So I went there.

On the Godly Play website, there's a quote from C.S. Lewis that brought this all full circle. From their website:

C. S. Lewis was often asked why he, an Oxford scholar and lay theologian, wrote The Chronicles of Narnia.

Once, he responded by writing: "I thought I saw how stories of this kind could steal past certain inhibitions which had paralyzed much of my own religion in childhood. Why did one find it so hard to feel as one was told one ought to feel about God or about the sufferings of Christ? I thought the chief reason was that one was told one ought to. An obligation to feel can freeze feelings. And reverence itself did harm. The whole subject was associated with lowered voices, almost as if it were something medical.

But supposing that by casting all these things into an imaginary world, stripping them of their stained-glass and Sunday School associations, One could make them for the first time appear in their real potency? Could one not thus steal past those watchful dragons? I thought one could."

©CS Lewis Company and Harper Collins Publishers

This quote makes me think that the Death and Dying class and Faithful Families are quite related. Both have to do with trying to unfreeze feelings and get rid of the oughts of faith. A sense of religious obligation can place such restrictions on feelings - especially surrounding death - that a good Christian thinks she needs to stifle reactions such as fear, anger, doubt, emptiness, pain because they aren't godly. As far as I can tell, this stifling is always counter-productive to a joy-filled life of faith. But we religious people almost can't help passing that stifling atmosphere onto our children.

Thank God our children also pass something on to us. Their playfulness teaches us. Their imaginations free us up. Learning from then, we remember that we are just children too. Full of fear but also sparkling with hope, we grab for each other's hands to steal past the watchful dragons all around.

Peace - Pr. Sarah
photo from the movie Narnia.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Ten for Ten. Ten reasons it's great to be a pastor, in celebration of my 10 year anniversary of ordination.

I'm in there somewhere. I was ordained at Luther Place Memorial Church in Washington DC on November 10, 2007, ten years ago today. ...