February 9, 2016

Grow Christians: Practicing Faith at Home

I haven’t been intentional about bringing my kids to Ash Wednesday services. To be honest, I couldn’t fathom the idea of the priest—their father and my husband—crossing ashes on their forehead and saying, “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

This says a lot more about my own spiritual maturity than it does theirs. I have had other talks with the children, but I’m not very good at talking about death. I know intellectually that mortality is a part of the cycle of life, and I believe in my heart that there is life after death. But I just haven’t figured out how to think and pray about that chasm, much less explain it to children.

But I am convicted of the importance after spending time reading and reflecting on two recent blog posts. Both are part of a new online initiative called Grow Christians, which aims to inspire and encourage people to practice their faith at home.

Ben Irwin explains why his family will talk about some of the hard concepts of Lent. “We’ll consider our mortality, our frailty, our vulnerability. We will lean into the darkness rather than run from it.
Because the painful yet glorious truth that Jesus demonstrated for us is this: the only path to resurrection runs through the grave.”

And Derek Olsen is even more pointed, as he stresses the importance for him in taking his young daughters to Ash Wednesday. He is, like me, a clergy spouse, which adds a particular poignancy to the interaction.

“Let me tell you: it’s a cold hard slap of reality to see a cross of ash on the forehead of your newborn. Some members of the congregation were shocked that we even brought her up, and questioned if such a thing was even appropriate. But it is. Death is a part of life. Mortality is a part of reality.”

But he continues, “the truth of the gospel means wrestling with truths that we don’t like. There’s a natural inclination to hide them from our kids–and from ourselves. But, through the practices of the Liturgical Year like Ash Wednesday, the church calls us to an integrity about ourselves, about the world around us, and about God. Only if we’re willing to tell the whole truth about sin and death are we able to tell the whole truth about resurrection.”

So tomorrow, we all come to the altar, and I will steel myself for some difficult conversations—both with my children and between me and God. I pray for courage.

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