May 10, 2016

Beloved Children of God

Her response was plaintive and clear: I think the bishop would be mad at you if the kids weren’t there, if the whole family didn’t come to dinner.

I had asked my 14-year-old if she wanted to stay home (or go out with friends) on Saturday night, while her dad and I entertained the bishop and his wife. On the next day, she would be among a fantastic group of fifteen teens to be confirmed into The Episcopal Church. I had (wrongfully) assumed she would rather hang out with friends, binge-watch Grey’s Anatomy, or Snapchat.

But she made dinner with the bishop and his wife a priority because over the past decade, they had told her time and again, through word and example, that she mattered. True, I worked with this bishop on diocesan staff, and my husband was a priest in the diocese for many years. But the bishop and his wife were intentional about valuing our whole family—children too. When they traveled to Russia on a mission trip, they bought small dolls to give to the children for Christmas. When they made their way to the Dominican Republic, they found a perfect keepsake for the children of diocesan staff members.

When they saw Madeline and our son, Griffin, they talked with them, asked them questions, and remembered things about their lives. How is your horse? What are you painting? Do you still like ice skating?

They treated our children as important members of the Body of Christ, and so when it came to dinner with these longtime friends, the children wanted to be there too.

Not all bishops are so gracious. (For that matter, neither are all priests or deacons or lay people.) But the ones who take a grand view of the Body, who by their example and witness show that all are important in the eyes of God, live into the promise made at consecration to guard the unity of the Church.

I think back to another bishop who was staying at our house before a visitation. I came into the kitchen to find her painting my then young daughter’s toenails and engaged in a wide-ranging conversation from Hannah Montana to second-grade politics to the best colors of polish.

Would that we all could emulate their example of treating everyone as a beloved child of God. Sure, the churches would be fuller, but so too would our hearts and lives.

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