While my wife and I celebrated my graduation from Regent College with our parents, Prince William and Kate Middleton were married in royal style. While Andrea and I whiled away a Sunday afternoon at Whytecliff Park in West Vancouver with our children, Osama bin Laden was assassinated. And that Monday we, along with other Canadians, engineered a “political earthquake” in the federal election.
Meanwhile, newspapers report that “sexting” (sending explicit photos via cellphone) is an increasing problem among today’s youth. Magazines label young adults “generation spend” because few are living frugally and saving money. Under pressure from “brand evangelizers” who encourage them to buy! buy! buy! many young adults are quickly racking up crippling levels of debt.
And websites report North American twenty- and thirtysomethings are leaving the church – though not necessarily the Christian faith – because their questions and their doubts are not well-received by other Christians. Instead of patient, gentle (and lengthy!) conversations that provide thoughtful and prayerful guidance, young Christians frequently receive scoldings (You need to repent), trite answers (You just gotta have more faith), or impersonal programs (You should watch this video series).
In the midst of these fairy tales and horror stories, my son was born.
Finding God’s life-giving story
It’s funny how the fear and trembling I experienced holding my newborn quickly morphed from a choked-up awe to a suffocating terror. Given the culture in which we live, I regularly wonder how my children will find themselves in God’s life-giving story. I hope to high heaven my on-the-fly parenting will lead Seth to embrace a tough-minded, tenderhearted, maturing faith relationship with Jesus in the church.
But you never know…
There are many hopeful signs, however. My grandfather was born in 1916. He didn’t have the benefit of youth programs or bookstores full of devotional material. He couldn’t attend a public worship service until his mid-30s. He was too busy surviving one famine, two wars, three years in prison, and a 10,000-km trek from Soviet Russia to Canada. Yet, despite the apparent lack of resources, saint Jacob of Coaldale had a profound and lively relationship with Christ when he died in 1998. He was one of the holiest people I’ve known.
Because my Opa’s faith in Jesus flourished, I’m optimistic the same will be true for my children.
And I think about our little church community in Abbotsford, B.C. Our Sunday morning gatherings are pretty simple. We still use an overhead projector. The kids’ Learning for Life program isn’t flashy. The music and the sermons aren’t always polished. Yet, it’s a safe place. Mrs. Marilyn doesn’t get rattled when my six-year-old asks, “How do we know God exists?” Hal and I might have a vigorous, ongoing argument about the nature of Scripture, but the conversation is sprinkled with laughter and a willingness to say, “I hadn’t thought of that,” or “I think you’re right.” And even if we don’t agree, we can still look each other in the eye when we break bread together.
Because church folk like Mr. Dee and pastor Christine have welcomed the doubtful and walked with the desolated (including me), people have discovered truth and life. I’m trusting that same Love will carry the day in the lives of my children.
Is what I’m describing like too much make-believe? Can Christian faith really be born in a culture that accepts fantasy as fact and deems Truth stranger than fiction?
I’ve half a mind to say it’s impossible, but all my heart says it’s true.