Our family lives in a small town in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The main street, aptly named after the town itself, houses multiple shops, one of which sits immediately on a corner with the street’s only stoplight. Our parish sets up “Ashes to Go” every Ash Wednesday at a coffee shop in the center of the town square. Bustling customers shuffle through, grab their coffee, experience a quick prayer with the priest, and move on into their day.
I stopped by the coffee shop in between school drop offs and work. The rain was coming down in sheets, certainly a fitting metaphor for the beginning of this penitential season. Monopolizing on the “to go” aspect of this offering, I spent less than ten minutes on the entire operation. Back in my car, I exhaled, if only for a moment. I was stuck somewhere around disappointment, but I couldn’t really pinpoint why.
I grabbed my calendar (yes, it’s still paper) from my bag, and flipped to Wednesday’s list. It wasn’t short. I hoped for a moment to speak with my girls about the season of Lent. I knew we couldn’t make any services as a family; aligning six schedules in the middle of the week was out of our reach. I would have to settle for a discussion in the car, in between tutoring, music lessons, and sports practice.
As our daughters grow, we have engaged in many conversations around our family values. What is our family mission statement? What do we want to be “known for”? Most poignantly, when we look back on the fleeting snapshot of time that was their childhood, will we treasure this time, or will we regret pieces of the choices we made, the way we spent our days?
Are we prioritizing our faith as a family?
This sat heavily as I made my commute through the rain.
We did the calculations, and we will have a high schooler in our house for the next eleven years. In my brain, that sounds like such a long stretch, where the stakes seem higher, and the closing of each chapter more final. In the lives of our daughters, I know it’s but a short snapshot, and such a formative one. I want to be mindful that we don’t force church attendance over every other point of community in their lives, but not at the expense of forgoing attendance unless the calendar aligns.
How do we best demonstrate for our children that our family priorities lie with our church community, while simultaneously supporting their journey to explore other activities?
Teaching Godly Play this past weekend reminded me the truth of our family values. As we worked through the Faces of Easter, the script prompt me to ask our class “Where can you connect today’s story to something we’ve learned before?” (paraphrasing mine). Students jumped to point out all the places we find Jesus in our lessons, which ultimately point us to the cross and Easter morning. During our sharing time, these children radiated God’s love with examples of Jesus’ story playing out in their daily lives.
I stood in awe at how first and second graders easily make connections between Jesus’ two-thousand-year-old story and their story today. For adults, I worry it’s easy to lose site of the connection that is readily apparent to children.
The faith of children reminds me that the undercurrent of their stories connects them back to our church home, and ultimately, connects them to Jesus. That’s the truth of God’s grace, no matter how many ways I try to change the calendar. There’s no magical number of services attended, Bible lessons read, or feast days celebrated that will change their story. God has already written each chapter, without needing our buy-in, approval, or scheduling skills.
Wherever the world takes our children, it’s our prayer that they never forget the foundation of love and community of support they received from their church home. As they grow, I feel confident this priority for our family won’t need to shift.