Saturday, August 19, 2006

Peaceful Worthwhileness...

I am reading this book. And I can tell you that it is taking for-freakin-ever. It's not the book's fault. The book is amazing. A beautiful and challenging look at the writings of the Desert Fathers and Mothers written by Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury (the Head of The Church of England/Episcopal/Anglican). It's basically about how we cannot be our true selves (that is, "a unique echo of God") unless we are living in community with others. I'm beginning to think I'm just not smart enough for it. I've been reading it for 2 months now and I'm on chapter 4. CHAPTER 4 PEOPLE!! I'm a book a week kinda gal. But this one...ohhh this one. I have to reread every chapter 3-4 times. no lie. I'll read a chapter, have a huge moment of epiphany, and then when I try to explain to Dearie the profoundness of how my perspective has been changed, it's gone.

But this is my big one for the week. My big epiphany (if I can get it out). It has to do with spiritual formation and religious education. Williams says basically, that the most important thing we can teach our children in all aspects of the educational environment is this idea of the "peaceful worthwhileness" of each person. And here I quote,

"Individuals as they are at rest are worthwhile, just as they are."

go ahead and read over that a few times, I'll wait...sure sure, we all like to talk about the fact that human beings have intrinsic value. That's the whole deal behind the human rights stuff. But, the reality of that fact in our day to day lives simply doesn't bare that out. Our worth is determined by our production, our paycheck, our good deeds, our church attendance etc etc. What Williams is so simply telling us is that it's not about how much you donate, how much you volunteer at the soup kitchen, how much you rack up the good deeds, the fact that we have been created, and the quietness that goes along with that is where are worth lies.

And to add to that the idea that I teach my children this fundamental message is huge for me. I had to step back and look at my dreams and expectations for my children. Am I stressing grades too much, pushing for college too much, insisting on manners and civility too much, pushing church and bible and prayer too much? Not that any of things are bad or wrong to impress upon our children, but am I doing these things in a way that take away from their own peaceful worthwhileness? How do I teach them values and faith without making salvation another goal to achieve?

Williams suggests silence. Helping our children learn to be at rest. That the Desert Fathers and Mothers would ask our young people, "What's the hurry? Take your time." What an amazing gift for our children. He goes so far as to say that in the environment that pushes the "messages of anxiety about the need to fill in all the open spaces, whatever you say in spiritual or religious education, you are actually breeding atheists, because you are creating a shrunken humanity."

So, that will now hopefully become a part of my parenting philosophy and not be forgotten in a week. I think it is such an essential thing. Not shovelling more and more information but making time and place for more and more experience with the Divine.