|Thistles In Every Bouquet|
Lisl and I have been having discussions about home/roots/parenting and village influence. I hope to derive grace from some of these ideas and observations for both of us. And hope for those we love. Ideas and memories that are my own roots here for you.
I had wonderful parents who gave to me a happy childhood and young adult life, even while the world wrestled with things like The Cold War and inflation and civil rights skirmishes. Yes, we were “sheltered”, but Mom and Dad made sure that we were not entirely ignorant of the bigger world outside our own.
Mom and Dad frowned upon narrow thinking by providing a wide scope of literature and by sharing a keen interest in what scientists and politicians were learning and doing. Current events in our own community and the greater global community mattered and we knew it. We were taught that we were going to be expected to be part of how it all turned out in the end, by prayer and influence, and by participation when it would not take us into the places non-resistant Christians do not go.
We grew roots, first of all, in having a relationship with Jesus. Dad convinced us that Jesus lived with us right here at home. He loved Mom intensely with romance and hard work and happiness. Dad and Mom had a way of living life like it was their own special party and we kids were expected to get our own as soon as we were grown up enough for it. It was Dad’s farm, and Mom’s house and gardens and lawn. We kids could definitely join in and help make it all good, but the whole point was to show us how to do a good job of that when we got our own party going someday. As long as we were part of their party here at home we would be expected to participate in the work and play of everything: family devotions, three sit-down meals a day, milking and hay making, shelling peas, peeling potatoes, cleaning, and, of course, school and church with all of the functions accordingly. Cheerfully and cooperatively. They showed us how to know what was right and wrong in this arena.
But, we didn’t get to keep to ourselves in this “safe” place. That would have been confining and unreal. We children were expected to get jobs, go for adventures, even out-of-state adventures like driving my uncle and his family up to Northern Minnesota to see family when I was sixteen and green as grass. We were expected run new errands, and generally learn to function in the community as young as possible.
Mom and Dad often said that we children would go further and beyond them and their capabilities in the big world of opportunity. We grew up believing that and then naturally doing that. What a gift they gave to us. And now we get to see our children going beyond us, too. From the little, unknown Rusk County kids we were with only high school educations come our children with varied skill sets, passports and a few with degrees and global adventures.
Mom and Dad were never so proud and independent to not allow us to be influenced and taught by others. Instead they shoved us toward people who could fill in where they were lacking. This a gift we parents must give to our children. The best parents admit they don’t know when they don’t.
Dad wasn’t born Mennonite so he taught us that we were part of the greater church, the bride of Jesus Christ, primarily, and that we were richly privileged to be a functional part of a local body of believers. He taught by action that we were the church and not just going to a church. So we learned the importance of loyalty to others, grace for their foibles and to expect the same in return for our own. We were taught that to be honest we had to expect human nature to be apparent and to live humbly with it, not against it. Some of our farmer folks fought sleep in church, but that didn’t strike them out. Those same folks cared about our church community and the turn out of their children. They showed it their best way by turning their pockets out for the church and the school. Money is a part too, of real church life, and not to be sniffed at.
Mom taught us to not be gullible and defenseless in our little church community. When they taught us shaped notes in music class at school and Bible school she tartly let us know that shaped notes are a crutch and that we would be deprived of being able to read “real” music if we didn’t watch it. She was right, of course, I still have to work on reading “real” music notation.
We were given roots by owning our humanity within the realm of our community and heritage. We weren’t allowed to think we were different or better or worse. We were where God wanted us to be, who God had planned us to be, and free to plan our own destiny both earthly and for eternity depending on what we did with Him.
The “identity crises” we were expected to deal with was that we were sinners saved by Jesus’ shed blood, and our primary citizenship was in Heaven. And that we kept our home and farm tidy and to not be like the messy neighbors, who didn’t. We were proud in our own way, I admit, and could have been less critical. We weren’t perfect ourselves, you see. Even in this we were given roots.
Finally, roots are now possibly not so geographical as they are cultural, because our world has gotten so much smaller. Things have changed a lot from that safe, small world where I grew up. But I maintain that we can learn the art of growing roots for our young families with the same God and saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. And many of the same rules apply about loyalty and love right where we live. Until He Comes.
I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. -Jesus John 17:15