Every day, it seems, I find myself looking up words and their etymologies, trying to get at the root of what something I've just read means. Sometimes it's a word in the Bible, and I end up wading my way through ancient languages I've never studied, searching for clues. Other times it's just words from daily life that suddenly pertain to some matter I'm struggling with or considering. Often the word has changed over the centuries; I find such words particularly fascinating—particularly when, as is often the case, the word's current meaning is at odds with what it once meant. Some of these word studies find their way into my writing projects. My goal is to post new words weekly, sometimes brand new material and sometimes excerpts from my books.

22 January 2007

Church (Continued from Last Week's Struggle)

Last week my husband and I sat Charlotte and Lulu down and told them we were thinking about just doing church at home and seeing how that worked out. That way, we wouldn't need to get up early. And they wouldn't have to suffer through me singing too loud to suit them. And Lulu wouldn't have to brush her teeth until that night. And we could make the day be about celebrating God in ways suited precisely to us. Maybe take a walk as a family. Maybe invite some of our friends from our old church over for a dinner/Bible Study, which the girls could participate in or not. We would probably take naps.

To our astonishment, both girls looked aghast and agreed that they didn't want to do anything like that.

"That's what atheists do," they told us, as if atheists were a club that not only got up late on Sunday but had small group worship and Bible studies and rested all Sunday long.

But the message was that they didn't want to be atheists, which was good news. So, we discussed some more and decided to try yet another church, one that I've been a bit leery about and starts even earlier in the day than the last one we visited but that has a youth group of local renown.

So we went, and the most amazing thing happened. First of all, the youth group leader—a youngish married man wearing his checked button down shirt untucked and toting a tiny newborn high on his chest—went over to the girls after the service and introduced himself. Then, a girl about their age talked to them. And then, most amazing of all, this guy that had been a counselor at a nearby summer camp they go to—known among the girl campers as one of the hottest guys there—came over to greet them and knew them both by name. That did it. The power of being known by name. By someone goodlooking. So now they want to keep going there, for the nonce.

It's an okay church, from my standpoint, although I've checked and they have absolutely no women in any kind of position of authority. Not even as a deacon. That was a bit disturbing. And the sermon was not electrifying, but it did cause me to go to this place in Matthew where Jesus says, "All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him" (11:27).

In other words, God the Father is knowable, via Jesus' revelation of him to us, but no one can know Jesus but the Father. So, what I have always found to be the case in my own experience is, in fact, how it should be: that is, I feel like I understand God the Father, sort of, but Jesus typically comes across to me as one big conundrum. What a relief! All these years just about every sermon I've ever listened to and every hymn I've sung seems to want to assert just the opposite: that Jesus (what a buddy, just like us, 100% man, etc.) is knowable and God (omniscient, omnipresent, omnieverything supreme power) isn't. I've always thought there was something wrong with me that I have such trouble really "knowing" Jesus the way my friends seem to, especially compared to my relative facility with understanding God the Dad. I mean, I get him. He's a parent, like me. He loves his kids even though they mess up. And he loves their genuine remorse and gratitude—oh rare delights!—even more than their perfect behavior. His biggest joy is when his kids to get along. I can't tell you how it thrills me when Charlotte and Lulu hug and call each other Sis and spend the whole afternoon playing Viva Pinata. God is like that about us, I think. So, anyway, I am entering this week with something new to consider. I like that.

This is one of those temporary happy ending struggle stories. Like most, in my experience. Except when I'm in one of those temporary unhappy ending struggle stories, which seem to subsume all else.


Annifer said...

When I was younger, my parents tried to do the home-church thing with my brother and me too. That didn't go over well with us either. I remember the sleeping in being quite nice, but I also remember missing that I didn't get to be around any cute boys. Before we tried the home-church, we did something similar, but it involved other families (and cute boys). We met in one another's homes and held small church services together, preached by my dad's friend Claude. His wife would tape record herself playing the piano at home, so when we met in a house with no piano, she could simply press play on the tape recorder, and we could sing along to the music. The kids would take turns choosing hymns for our next service, and my brother and I, without fail, would always choose "Power in the Blood." It was always exciting when this travelling church met in our home. When it did, we would go through a frenzy of cleaning and sprucing, and we generally had a potluck, with croquet afterward, weather permitting, in our front yard. Each family would bring their own plates to the potluck. The Brutons had these wicker basket things that they stacked their paper plates inside of so they wouldn't collapse with the weight of food on them.

After a while, it was time for pastor Claude to move on to a different church, and this is when we started meeting as a family at home. It didn't work as well -- my brother and I were homeschooled at that point, and home-church was a little too much for us. Then we started going to a big church with lots of other kids and a great youth pastor.

Having a youth pastor was probably the best thing that happened in my spiritual life at that age. I still stop by and talk with him whenever I'm home, even though I graduated six years ago.

I have begun reading your book, and I've already gotten all teary-eyed a few times. I read the chapter "On Being Cleaned" to my boyfriend over the phone this evening. He enjoyed it. I have also laughed. What a blessing your words have been to me so far.

Happy Tuesday.

Annifer said...

I don't know why the comment did that to my name. My name is still Ann. It is not Annnl4p5h :o).

Katy said...

Man, I wish my spiritual life were still as easy as enjoying going to youth group. Stinks being a grown-up.