Both of my kids are in their twenties. I worry about the spiritual paths they now choose. I did my best to be a good mom. I took them to a church where they were loved and nurtured. Should I have been less open-minded, and more strict when they were teenagers?
It helps to remember what a rebellious agnostic I was in my twenties.
I was totally turned off by the Christian TV evangelicals of the 1970’s. I used to have nightmares about them hunting me down and taking me to a compound where I had to play along whilst planning my escape.
So, I’ve tried hard not to be like those scary Christians. I want to be a bridge, not a barrier. I respect the beliefs of others, as long as they don’t hurt anybody.
That respect comes, in part, from a poem I discovered in my searching youth about a group of blind men and an elephant, by John Godfrey Saxe.
Each blind man experienced the same elephant in a different way. This poem shaped my philosophy about religion. It’s what I offer to people who are steadfast that their way is the only way or prone to unproductive arguments. I find it helpful for those who need acceptance as they search for their truth.
I find God through Jesus. I love Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who loves us all. I also find God in nature, when I marvel at the beauty of a full moon, the vastness of the ocean or the magnificence of a forest. Saint Francis of Assisi helped bridge my love of nature with my love of Jesus.
I want to be a bridge, respecting the rights of others to choose their own paths.
(This is a lot easier with someone who is not my offspring.)
I want people to know that there is such a thing as an open-minded Christian, and I’m not the only one.
When we condemn, judge, and criticize, we are likely to become barriers.
When we love, accept, and respect, we can each become a bridge.
The song, “They’ll Know we are Christians by our Love” came to me as a teenager when my second boyfriend took me to and Episcopal youth group where they sang it as their closing. The memory of this song survived my period of rebellious agnosticism, like a seed planted in hardening soil. When I heard it again in my early thirties, at a church where love and acceptance softened my fear of judgment, I knew I was in the right place. A place to grow.
Below is a version of the song dedicated to Saint Kateri Tekawitha, “The Lily of the Mohawks” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kateri_Tekakwitha
My kids have agreed, without begging or overt bribery, to come to church with me on Christmas Eve. (After all, I did Christmas church for my parents in my twenties.) When they come, they will find love waiting there for them. Who knows what seeds may grow.