I’ve been attending yoga classes at my local studio for about a year. I’m into yoga for the stretching and centering, so when Zoe announced that the theme of the Wednesday class was going to be hard work, I immediately got nervous.
I was right to be.
By the end of the class my abs were sore and I had unsuccessfully tried to kick into headstand about ten times. I did not think much of it, but later that week, when talking to my spiritual director about my prayer life, and our family prayer life, he reminded me that there are practices in our life we can do automatically, because they have been ingrained in us as children, and then there are practices that feel awkward and uncomfortable, when we have to use our conscious mind to really work at making them happen. In short, we have to work hard.
I work really hard – at work. When I get home, I want to unwind, turn my brain off, and rest. As an Episcopal priest married to a Presbyterian pastor, you’d think our home would be full of liturgical practices, table prayers, and Jesus based crafts, but you’d be sorely mistaken. I grew up in a secular home where any talk of religion was awkward and giggly. And while I can plan a meaningful Lenten program at church, I’m not even sure my kid knows he’s supposed to give up something for Lent.
For years, I have skated by on the excellent Christian formation our son has received at church. He knows Jesus loves him because of the families that taught him how to take communion when his parents were preaching, the Sunday school teachers who have taught him all the Biblical characters, and clergy who have loved him and offered him many kindnesses.
All that is great, but this year, I wanted to him to know how important prayer is to me. But how do I teach something that is contemplative and feels so private? For now, I decided to go with the basics. We aren’t reading Compline. We aren’t lighting a candle and centering ourselves. For now, after our bedtime routine, we curl up together and I invite him to give thanks, confess, and ask God for what he needs.
It’s so basic. It feels awkward. It’s hard, even though it shouldn’t be. But I am hopeful that this bumbling practice will be the seed of prayer life.
And there are moments of great connection. He’s been struggling to understand what confession is. A couple of nights ago, a certain curse word slipped from my lips in the middle of a very frustrating game of Phase 10. He heard it and was DELIGHTED. That night I was able to confess I used that word, and he confessed he had thought a different curse word. (One that I would not define as a curse word, but I’m not arguing with his second grade teacher.)
So, I am praying with my kid. And doing crunches at night before bed. Because some things are hard, but worth doing. If he’s going to have a prayer life, and if I’m ever going to successfully get into a headstand, we need to practice–whether I like it or not.
[Image credit: Public Domain via Pixabay]
Christian Simmers says
So glad this isn’t just hard for us lay-folks! Thank you for your honesty and encouragement 🙂
Sarah G. says
Love you, too, Jenny! You raise your children with such care and faith and joy, even without the Jesus-y post-its! 😉 Thanks so much for taking the time to respond to this. I miss you!
Jenny C says
Oh I love this so much I read it twice. And I’d sit and read it again but I am supposed to be somewhere in 9 minutes that is 20 minutes away. YES. This reads like a relief. I big time struggle with outwardly religious activities and I have enormous guilt about that but then enormous discomfort from things that I know others will view as “Jesus-y” which I get should be the best thing and that I probably shouldn’t turn Jesus’s name into an adjective kind of like I know I shouldn’t use the Bible as a coaster (which I don’t) (I can’t fathom how I run late for things) (wondering if I have adult onset ADD). Anyway, I think my guilt comes from feeling like I’m not doing enough. We get ourselves to church as much as we can, my daughter is being confirmed this Sunday, we say grace before we eat at home when it’s just the four of us, but we don’t do Bible study and we don’t leave verses on post-its and we don’t openly pray together and after being raised Presbyterian (hello, yes, God’s frozen chosen) we do NOT say grace out in public or and only in my 40’s have I found the confidence to tell someone that I’ll pray for them without adding thoughts before that Jesus word prayer. And I have assume that if people like you – my former Rector – knew this you’d be woefully disappointed and maybe even think “I’m not surprised” to yourself in a she is not like Margie or Malda or Martha or any of the church ladies who seem to have it all together all of the time. Anyway, I needed this. And so I’m now going to be 20 minutes late, but it’s worth it to say thank you. Sometimes grace comes in being reminded that your comfort zone of faith practices is ok, but that maybe you could try to bumble outside of them from time to time, too. Love you.