Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Spiritual Formation of Our Seven-Month Olds?

Amber and I gifted this to Lily on her baptism.
This past Sunday my wife walked into worship mid-way through the sermon with Lily, 2 of 2 limited edition Klimovitz twins.  Amber had arrived late due to our kids recent week-long battle with a wicked cold, yet the belated handoff was one of the more sacred moments I have experienced in worship. While it is quite common for our kids, not long after we make our grand circus entrance into the worship space, to be passed around and down the aisle of our friends and church family, this service I refused to let Lily go.  I am not sure if it was the passage being read, a lyric sung, or the reminder that we were another week into Advent, but for some reason I felt a different grip of the Spirit. Then Amber walked in with Noah, i.e. 1 of 2, and the sacredness further enveloped me.

This time last year, Amber and I were anxiously waiting through Advent in the midst of a high-risk pregnancy.  We were scared.  We were hopeful. We were dreamers. We were worriers.  We we were confident.  We were uncertain. We held in tension the wonder and mystery of soon-to-be parents of two.  Although at times we doubted, God was present with us the whole way.

I can say without hesitancy that those same things hold true today.

I wonder if that is what gripped me?  I think it gripped us both.  So as we moved through the liturgy, I could not help but not only sing out, but also sing into the ears of my daughter.  I could not hold back from not only the recitation of prayers, but also gently whispering them into Lily's young mind. I could not refrain from incorporating my little girl into the sacredness of worship, an invitation for even her to enter into the life as a child of God, a baptized disciple of Jesus, and a member of the community of faith called the church.

In a way, these are the beginnings of Lily's spiritual formation.  And as Amber held Noah next to me, I think these are the beginnings of his, too.

It could be said that when Christians have children they enter into a sacred and subversive art of spiritual formation.  This artistic discipline, as Hauerwas and Willimon suggest, is also our baptismal obligation:
"Christians have children, in great part, in order to be able to tell our children the story. Fortunately for us, children love stories. It is our baptismal responsibility to tell this story to our young, to live it before them, to take time to be parents in a world that (though intent on blowing itself to bits) is Gods creation (a fact we would not know without this story). We have children as a witness that the future is not left up to us and that life, even in a threatening world, is worth livingand not because 'Children are the hope of the future,' but because God is the hope of the future." (Resident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony, 60).
Amber and I have pondered what it will mean for us to tell this redemptive narrative to our kids.

How will we live into our responsibility not only as parents, but also and especially as baptized believers?

How will we form our children in the Way of Jesus and citizens of an alternative colony within the belly of an empire?

We have contemplated...

...what will happen if they begin each day with the Lord's Prayer as a different sort of pledge of faithful allegiance?

...how we will enable the dinner table be opportunities for holy laughter, shared stories, and reflections on divine encounters throughout the day?

...where we will be awakened by the movement of the Spirit through evening prayers?

...when we will provide space to ask questions and ponder the Scriptures together?

...how we will imagine opportunities to live into God's dreams for the world as a family and members of our church?

...how we will invite our kids to become channels of grace to their neighbors, friends, community, and especially those on the margins of society?

...ways we will seek to protect them from the world and ways we will be challenged to courageously expose them to it, even the most rawest and darkest elements?

Noah's baptismal gift :)
We recognize that for now we can only ponder.  Yet this Advent reminds us that as we wait for the coming of Christ at Christmas, we also are invited to wait for the coming of our kids into their identity as faithful disciples and dreamers of God's future. And as we wait, we must continue to implement sacred rhythms and disciplines into our own lives as parents so that when they are able to take notice they cannot help but participate and enter into this sacred dance called faith.

Until then, we will continue to soak in these moments when we can hold either or both of our kids in worship as we enter into the sacred rhythm.  We must, because these moments are certainly limited editions.

A great resource I have poured into recently is the latest edition of CONSP!RE, "a quarterly magazine of faith, art, justice, and community."  The Summer 2011 edition was titled, "Children of God: Fearfully and Wonderfully Made," and incorporated a wide variety of articles and insights in regards to the spiritual formation of children.  To subscribe visit:  To view this edition: http://www.conspiremagazine.com/.