Growing Pains

I’ve been thinking a lot about parenthood: how much of it is about letting go, and how the early years so ill prepare you for this reality. Ultimately we raise children so that they can walk off into the world, equipped to meet whatever challenges they face. We don’t raise them to keep them in our arms, but I imagine a part of us takes a lifetime to accept how much they are apart from us. Babies are given to us, but were never really ours. 

It’s a bittersweet reality. On the one hand it’s so clear that this was the Lord’s design, and that it is beautiful and complete and the only way to true eternal life for any of us. And it’s also a bit of a heart wrench to accept that the child who was once a babe in my arms is now supposed to be walking further and further away from needing me, into independence and free choice. 

It can’t but make me think of the Lord and His relationship with us all. As the ultimate parent figure, this process of nurturing and letting go encompasses so much of His relationship with all of us. And it gives me a real pang for how that would feel: needing to let us walk away, sometimes very far away, so that we have the chance of one day choosing to walk towards Him. 

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The Simple Things

Life is complex. But complexity always starts from something simple. 

Recently, my life has been complicated by moving to a new state. Anyone who has relocated knows how tough it can be. After a month of procrastinating, I finally went to the department of transport and got my car registered. Yay! I was given two license plates for my vehicle, and, with a sense of accomplishment, I drove home. 

That afternoon, I pulled out a wrench from the back of the car and managed to remove and replace my back license plate. I’m not particularly handy, so this was an achievement. Since the vehicle was from PA, it did not have a front license plate, which means less work for me…or so I thought. 

There were no bolts on the front plate.

I began with searching the vehicle for bolts in case there were spares, but I had no luck. I found a box of nuts and bolts at the church, but I could not find any that fit. After wrestling with the unsuitable bolts, I went to Home Depot and bought a packet of “license plate bolts”. But alas, they didn’t fit either. 

I felt defeated. 

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Prayer: Always More to Think About

In the Theta Alpha Journal I read about praying for the Ukrainians. In our local church we pray for good outcomes from surgery. Frequently I hear comments like, “I’ll be praying for you today; hope it goes well!”

I am not criticizing this. I think wishing well of people, and thinking of them empathetically, is a good thing. But I think that prayer can be much more.

What God wants is our eternal happiness. Shouldn’t that be what we pray for as well? Nadine Rogers, in the Theta Alpha Journal, reminds us that those who lived in Jesus’ time were the first to expect Jesus to solve their earthly problem. It happened to be Roman oppression. We find this so obvious–those simple Jews, expecting God to solve their worldly problems!–then we pray for earthly things ourselves.

My friend Susie’s ex-husband had an affair, lied about it, initiated a divorce, and never expressed remorse. Susie once told me that in the depths of her shock, she still had a tiny inkling of clarity about the situation. “I knew I was actually okay,” she said, “but that he was in deep trouble.” He was the one to pray for, she said, not herself. She knew she was going to be okay. But him? She wasn’t sure at all.

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Losing My Religion – A Journey of Rediscovery

As my children grow into teenagers, I’m enjoying hearing their latest music choices in the car on whatever journey we are taking on any given day. As much as I love to listen to the radio or podcasts, I’m always interested to hear what music they are enjoying and relating to at that moment. 

What has surprised me is the number of ‘old’ songs they are discovering and equally how surprised they are when I start singing along enthusiastically, only to be asked, “Do you know this song?” When I tell them that the song was from my era, they are excited to know more. It has definitely sparked endless discussion and I find myself not feeling so ‘old’ anymore. 

Recently, they discovered the song, ‘Losing My Religion’ by R.E.M, which brought back many memories. I hadn’t really thought about the words before, and it got me thinking of the bigger picture:

“Oh life is bigger
It’s bigger than you
And you are not me…”
Songwriters: Peter Lawrence Buck/ Michael E. Mills/ William Berry/ Michael J. Stipe (R.E.M)

Life is definitely bigger than all of us and my teenagers and I have been talking and engaging in discussion about religion recently on our car journeys. I wonder if most teenagers go through a stage of questioning religion, religious institutions, the existence of God, their place in the universe etc. as they go on their own journey of discovery into who they are and what their purpose is in the world. I have had to deal with many questions of ‘Why do we believe in God?’ or ‘Is God real?’ or ‘Why doesn’t God help me?’ I have learned to answer questions by asking another question: ‘Why are you asking?’ or ‘Do you think God is real?’ ‘What does it feel like when he is helping?’ It has been an interesting journey but what their journey of discovery has triggered is my own journey of rediscovery.

We live in East Lothian in Scotland, having moved back here at the beginning of 2020 during the global pandemic. Covid caused us a great deal of upheaval and its effects are still being felt. Since we left South Africa and the warmth of our religious blanket and regular participation in church societies there, we were left a bit in the cold in New Zealand, where we lived for 1 year, and now in Scotland. We have struggled to find our feet and attended church with my mum at her local church, but we’ve all felt we’re missing something. My youngest daughter even at one point felt she was losing her religion and couldn’t see the bigger picture. I explained that it’s okay to feel disconnected, and to question but that in time things will be clearer. 

I have also felt isolated but one positive aspect of Covid was the various live streamed or recorded sermons and services that have now appeared in the New Church sphere which we are able to watch no matter where we live. I love to connect to Westville New Church, which we attended for many years. Following a recent trip to Boulder, Colorado to visit family there, we attended the Boulder New Church and am now inspired to watch their live streamed services each Sunday evening (UK Time). 

The biggest discovery for me is Logopraxis. I was looking for a way to connect with the Word in a more meaningful way and thanks to Erik Buss, who is currently based in the UK, through our discussions, he put me in touch with David Millar and I’ve been participating in the practice for a few months now. I look forward to each week and the work I do in the intervening weeks to prepare for the class and enjoy the interaction and learning from others perspectives and insights in our sessions. The practice has helped me in my relationships with others as I become more mindful of the Lord’s presence in my daily life and interactions with others and even with myself and my inner life. 

It has been a real journey of rediscovery for me and I’m definitely not losing my religion but finding my religion and growing my connection to the Lord and the beautiful world he has created. It has meant our religious discussions are more fruitful, interesting, and our discussions even inspired my two eldest teenagers to attend BASS summer camp recently. Although it was tough at first, they came home reinspired, reconnected, and fulfilled from their connection with other like-minded teenagers and warmed by the support and wisdom of those who facilitated the camp. 

So, the words of the song resonate:

“Oh Life is bigger
It’s bigger than you
And you are not me…”

Life is bigger than you or me and the Lord’s presence in it gives it meaning. Thankfully, we are not losing our religion but discovering or rediscovering it in ways that resonate and work for each of us in our own ways in our journey to find connection with the Lord. Let’s hope each of our journeys continue to grow our connection and love of the Lord more and more with each passing year. 

Have you ever questioned your faith in the Lord? Have you dealt with children or teenagers questioning their faith? How have you dealt with it? I’d love to hear other’s experiences and journeys of discovery.