Dear Atticus, the big one

Church

Dear Atticus,

Over the summer, we had several conversations with friends about what it means to raise children in an environment where they value church and God and truth and the Bible without that turning to legalism or didacticism. The truth is that we don’t really know the answer to that question. But here are a few things we want you to know in regards to faith and church and God.

We are going to make you go to church. I hope you like it. But even if you don’t, you still have to go. We think it is important to center your life and your friendships around a place of worship. All of our closest friends are friends with whom we can talk about the things that are most important to us, which include spiritual things. We need those people and that structure in our lives, and we think you need them, too. The good news is that there are a lot of people who care about you and lots of kids around your age at church. I don’t remember church being especially fun, but I think that there are a lot of people who will work to make it more fun for you. Here are some very wise thoughts from Anne Lamott on why she makes her son go to church:

The main reason is that I want to give him what I found in the world, which is to say a path and a little light to see by. Most of the people I know who have what I want–which is to say, purpose, heart, balance, gratitude, joy–are people with a deep sense of spirituality . They are people in community, who pray, or practice their faith; they are Buddhists, Jews, Christians–people banding together to work on themselves and for human rights. They follow a brighter light than the glimmer of their own candle; they are part of something beautiful. I saw something once from the Jewish Theological Seminary that said, “A human life is like a single letter of the alphabet. It can be meaningless. Or it can be a part of a great meaning.” Our funky little church is filled with people who are working for peace and freedom, who are out there on the streets and inside praying, and they are home writing letters, and they are at the shelters with giant platters of food.

When I was at the end of my rope, the people at St. Andrew tied a knot in it for me and helped me hold on. The church became my home in the old meaning of home–that it’s where, when you show up, they have to let you in. They even said, “You come back now.”

Going to church is an important part of being involved with something that is bigger than just yourself. We want you to understand that, and we hope that you find a home there as many of the children and youth that we have worked with have also seemed to do.

We are not going to have all the answers. Sometimes you will ask a question, and we will simply have to tell you that we do not know. We might not know because there are a lot of different answers to the question, or we might not know because we are still working it out for ourselves. And we might not know because the question is one that people have been wrestling with for years, questions for which there are no satisfactory answers. The wisest people I know are not the ones who have the answers, but the ones who are willing to admit their own limitations. You can trust that if we give you an answer, it’s because we have thought about it. We are not going to tell you something about God just to get you to shut up.

But we also aren’t going to give you all the answers. As much as I would like for this life to work in some kind of system (and I often feel that I would desperately like for that to be the case), it doesn’t. I can tell you what I believe, but you have to work things out for yourself. We don’t just want to give you the answers to these questions. We want to equip you to learn how to think about them on your own.

We have been very careful about the Bible story books we have bought for you so far. People have very different ideas about God, and we want to be sure the messages we are sending you are ones that we agree with. Because of that, I am excited about sharing those stories with you, the sad, hilarious, confusing, inspiring stories about what it means to walk with God in this life. I am excited about your questions, too, because I am sure you have a lot to teach me about those same things.

Love,
Mama

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