Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Yep, Our Son Was Born on October 31: Parenting as Fear and Faith Formation

I am not sure why, but I had this hunch that October 31 was to be the birthday of kid No. 3.

Maybe it's because holiday deliveries seem normal to us, as our Twinado made their grand entrance just over three years ago on Maundy Thursday. This made for a poetic albeit chaotic Easter when we brought new life home for the first time.

Maybe it was because I have never been a huge fan of Halloween and thought the universe, in a cruel twist of irony, had aligned the stars so I would be forced to celebrate on this day every year from now until forever.

Maybe it's because I love the significance of All Hallows' Eve and had already considered my son a saint in utero.

Maybe it was because I had visions of a book in honor of Martin Luther, who on October 31, 1517, posted 95 Theses for church reform on the door of the Catholic Church in Wittenberg, Germany. However, unlike the great reformer, my book would be a collection of humorous anecdotes titled, 95 Feces: An Unorthodox Guide to Parenting in the Way of Jesus.

Maybe it was because I saw how uncomfortable my wife was at the tale end of the pregnancy. I knew 39 weeks was considered full term and a few days early would've been welcome relief for the courageous yet tired love of my life.

Needless to say, my prediction was a spot on oracle of precision.

So here we stand with a baby boy born on both Halloween and All Hallows' Eve. His delivery surrounded by cultural dramatizations of horror and ecclesial celebrations of the holy. While we may eventually grow tired of festive cliches and birthday puns, October 31 may ultimately serve as perfect metaphor for parents like us who hold in tension the frightening and hallowed call to faith formation.

We may fear the health and safety of our children, not wanting them to be short changed by debilitating diseases, become victims of unnecessary hazards, or lose out because of the irresponsibility of others. At the same time we pray our children hear God's hallowed call to take risks for the sake of others, especially margin dwellers and oppressed persons. We pray the pain they will endure, for they indeed will, moves them to enter into and seek to alleviate the pain of others.

We fear our children will not be treated with the same kindness and love we have taught them about since their birth. We dread school buses, lunch tables, and playgrounds that can be communities of grace and platforms for hostility. We cringe as we consider the possibility that our children will be the butt of jokes tossed at them by the same kinds of children we encountered when we were young. We also dare our children to cling to the hallowed image of God that defines them and can never be taken away from them. We must nurture them to be saints who reflect that very image in all those they encounter, celebrating diversity versus condemning difference.

We fear finances and the inability to provide all that our children need or want. We fear mounting medical bills, student loans, and rising costs of living. We fear our children will become pawns in the capitalistic, consumer culture and obsessed with the need for more and better. We strive to foster a holy trust in the very Creator who promises us not abundance but daily bread. We pray they would explore opportunities to share that same bread with those who are poor, sick, and hungry.

We fear they will become cynical in light of a world saturated in violence, poverty, injustice, and steady streams of corruption and hypocrisy. We pray for the sacred opportunities to dream alongside them as they quest to become agents of generosity and innovative peacemakers, embodying the different world they know can and one day will be possible.

We fear they will become jaded by church systems and politics that quickly distract God's people from the mission of God and God's dreams for a better, cleaner, and safer world renewed by creativity and beauty. We covenant as faithful parents to empower our hallowed children, in the words of Richard Rohr, to critique the bad with the practice of the better. We also hope to tilt their eyes and ears to those very places where the world still reflects the very brilliance of Eden and wondrous sounds of God's shalom.

We fear our children will live in angst and anguish in light of what they read, watch, witness, and personally experience. We long to respond to our Christian call and form them to be disciples not crippled by fear but propelled by the perfect love of God in Christ that has driven all fear away.

Let's be honest, fear is a part of parenting. Fear is intimately a part of being human. Maybe that's why we mimic it on Halloween.

Still more, faith formation is the sacred call of parents, who are accompanied by the great and hallowed cloud of witnesses called the church. When we hold in tension the reality of fear and our holy obligation to faith formation, the possibilities are endless not only for us, but also and especially for our children.

After all, theirs is the kingdom of God.

So I guess I'm kind of grateful for my son's October 31 birthday, colliding with both Halloween and All Hallows' Eve. Maybe this annual celebration will be a reminder for him (and us) to live within the tension of fear and faith formation. That seems to be the very place where God dwells, too.

Happy Halloween. Blessed All Hallows' Eve.

Even if it's a bit belated.


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