Okay, I've not got much time so be extra tolerant of bad spelling, punctuation and/or unclear sentence/paragraph structure, please. n_n
Reading Quivering Daughters has given me much to think about concerning the practice of family devotions. Standing by my own husband as he begins to deal with the emotional fall-out of having been raised in an extremist fundamentalist evangelical environment is also causing me to reconsider much of what I believed about Christian practice, Christian parenting, etc.
I hear echoes of my own daughter's heart in some of Hillary's journal entries. It makes me wince. I never meant to bring pain to my children, or saddle them with guilt. I didn't intend on making anyone feel that they could never measure up. No! No! No!
I thought I was always telling the gospel of grace, and emphasizing the great love of God. I was mystified when my daughter would say things, "I just want you to be proud of me!" or "I'll never be good enough for you."
Usually she would say this right after I found out about some action of hers that was in direct contradiction to all I thought I was teaching her! I would think, but not say, "If it matters so much to you why don't you DO things that will make me proud? Why are you defying me?"
Well, smack me upside the head with a two-by-four! I see know that all that emphasis on right living, behavior and thought added up to INTENSE PRESSURE TO BE PERFECT! In all my personal religious instruction, I failed to see what I was teaching from the eyes of a child.
That breaks my heart.
Of course my daughter would feel I was impossible to please. I wasn't continually building her up for all the good she said/did/thought. I didn't praise her for her acts of service, kindness and compassion. Not like I should have anyway. And here's why: I set up a world in which "obedience to God" was to be the norm, not a commendable extra, but a demanded least level of performance.
How did I do that? Through those well-intentioned daily devotions. I read them as an adult, an adult who needed constant reminders to act as a mature Christian should. I was after all, a fully formed person at that point.
That's fine for an adult like myself who has good personal emotional boundaries. I needed to be reminded that frequently. But my children, who were just starting out in life, were getting an entirely different message. I was hearing "keep trying", they were hearing "anything less than perfect isn't good enough". I forgot to listen with the heart of a child.
My daughter was hearing put yourself last always, and set out to do that very thing with all the earnest determination of a pure heart yet untouched by cynicism and selfishness. Whereas I was being pulled back from being too selfish, she was hearing "your self is bad, your self doesn't matter as much as other people, other people always matter more and that's how life should be..."
Oh, I thank God I did disagree with them at times, and say so, and sometimes ask my children what they thought, and let them disagree, but still...moral instruction every single day? For me, as a fully formed adult with my ego strong and vigorous, I needed to be reminded to think of others needs, be gracious and loving, etc. But those precious children, just starting out in life, did NOT need that all day, every day!
I think that Deuteronomy 6, the verses that tell us to "talk about" the Word of God as we go through our day, were talking about the spontaneous conversations that naturally spring up as we spend time together. I had those conversatoins with my Grandma growing up, and the neighbor lady across the street. Those meaningful little starbursts of glory breaking into everyday life are still with me today. They were life-giving.
But that is a far cry from deliberate, planned, canned moral presentations handed out like cod liver oil to obedient pliant children. It may have tasted awful, but they dutifully swallowed it out of love for mom. And along with that daily (and for those using overtly Christian curriculum, hourly!) dose of law, cheerfully endured by loving lamb hearts, came the ministry of condemnation.
You know the warning, don't you? God has made us all able ministers of the new testament: not of the letter, for the letter ministers death, but of the Spirit, because the Spirit gives life. The new covenant is written in our hearts by the Spirits. When we speak spontaneously, from what is written in our hearts, then it ministers life.
But the letter, the commandments, the rote, regular predetermined by the will of man presentation of the letter of the law- it kills!
How did I not see that before?
Am I saying I don't believe in canned family devotions? Yes, I think I am.
I think I am saying exactly that. It's kind of scary, but, yes.
I think that when we switched to fun books rather than devotionals at night, it was way more important than I realized! I wish now that I had done so many more things for joy, and not let fear rule so many of my decisions.
A time where we all pray together? Yep, that I would not change. A time to remind the children of God's great love and His thoroughly attractive nature of goodness and joy? Yes, in fact that's what I would replace all those canned devotionals with, stories from the life of Jesus! Just a smidgen at a time, the story of the ten lepers, the widow's mite, the healing of the man blind from birth.
Jesus said if he was lifted up, he would draw all men to him. Yep, looking back, that would have been the much wiser course, and a truer interpretation of Christian parenting. Deuteronomy 6 was given to those under the Law, the letter that kills.
What we all need is the Spirit that gives life.
Well, I may change my thinking on some of this as these thoughts have more time to distiill. Right now I have to go. See ya!