“A voice cries out: In the desert prepare the way of the Lord! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!” (Isaiah 40:3)
“Since everything is to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be?” (2 Peter 3:11-12)
Variations on a theme, it’s a conversation that plays out in many corners.
The latest version I heard came from a mother furious with her son’s soccer coach for scheduling practices on Sunday. “How are families supposed to get to church,” she lamented, “when we have games on Saturday nights and practice on Sunday mornings?”
Raising children of faith – any faith – has never been easy. No matter the culture, it has always been full of temptations, frustrations, and distractions that make it hard to keep spiritual practices at the heart of family life.
Religion is not cool or sexy or popular. It calls for commitment and sacrifice and humility, none of which ever top Parents magazine’s “quick ways to have fun with kids!” or Seventeen’s “must-haves for this school year!” But lots of parents dedicate their time and effort and energy anyway.
They take the babies to be baptized, the kids to faith formation, the whole crew to church on Sunday mornings. They do it for lots of reasons, and sometimes they’re not sure why. But it has to do with helping make their children the “sort of persons you ought to be”: people who treat others well, who act with kindness, who stand up for what they believe in.
All of this work of parenting – the arguments over why you can’t wear those clothes or listen to that music or skip church on Sunday – is the work of preparing a way in the wilderness, making a place in our hearts and lives for God to enter in. Because the truth is that the temptations, frustrations, and distractions “out there” are in our own hearts and minds as well. The wasteland and the wilderness are often closer than we’d like to admit.
Advent is about this, too. About being counter-cultural. About being quiet when the world says noise! About being still when the world says rush! About simply being when the world says do!
About preparing a way to become the people we ought to be.
Have you made any counter-cultural decisions as a parent? What message do you hope this sends your children?