As the unrelenting anxiety continues to grow, my best defense is to sit and write and focus my mind on something unrelated to the sadness and emptiness that inevitably grows inside me at that this time of the year.
This morning, as I reviewed the passages that the boys (9 and 7) are going to read in church this evening, James and I started to discuss all the benefits for our children—aside from spiritual—there are in going to church.
Tonight, the boys will both practice reading (something other than Pokemon) and public speaking. This is the first year that Eric has done any presenting in school and it was a book report in front of his classmates. However, he has been reading something called the Minute for Mission in church for two years now. They are short stories about the problems people must deal with in different parts of the world, and the efforts by others to make a difference. He is learning integrity, caring and all of this through the real life examples of others. This is particularly important because the boys are in French school and this gives them a chance to practise in English.
The kids learn so many other important skills that truthfully I don’t always have time to teach them because I am often too busy. Sometimes they set up for coffee time after church, help serve the treats, pour coffee, tea or juice, do the clean up afterwards and put away chairs. They seem to do this enthusiastically and with no complaining—even when it comes to washing countless dishes.
They learn to be respectful of their elders and how to interact with all ages, including seniors. Working together in the church gives them something in common, and helps them to get to know each other.
Most importantly, they are appreciated for their efforts. They are recognized and made to feel like an important part of the group—not just the little ones who are dismissed. They are listened to and heard because people truly care about them.
Feeling important is the deepest non-biological need we have as humans and our children always feel like important members of our little church.
Their reading improves as they sing along to the hymns and Christmas Carols. Confidence is boosted as they participate in plays put on by the youth. Being surrounded by kind people simply rubs off.
Kids won’t go to church on their own. They need their parents to take them. James and I thoroughly enjoy one hour on the weekend when the kids are busy doing all of the above and we have time to center ourselves and refocus our thoughts.
Church doesn’t have to be a place where we are made to feel guilty or as if we are being judged. I have never felt that way nor would I ever make anyone else feel that way—another fantastic lesson for the children to learn.
As adults we can learn all these skills as well, but usually won’t be motivated enough to do it for ourselves, but might for our children. Most of us put our children in sports for the exercise and life lessons learned through team sports. But when Eric is as confident to stand up in front of a bunch of adults and speak as he is to take the faceoff in hockey, I am proud to have given him equal opportunities in both. With less and less being offered in school these days, as parents we need to find ways to help our children become well rounded adults, from sports to math, to basic human decency.
There are many types of churches and most do not fit my life. I need one that is inclusive and open, that is relevant today and not just 2000 years ago, one that offers realistic advice and doesn’t expect me to follow blindly. I don’t want to be told what to do or what to think, but rather to have some guidelines pointed out and then choose how to best implement those in my life and the lives of my children.
I’m not trying to “sell” the idea of church to anyone, but I wonder if many people see it differently than what it actually is, and don’t realize the benefits. Check it out. Try a few different ones and see what you think. What do you have to lose?
Tonight I will sit in the warmth of a familiar place surrounded by people who truly love me and the anxiety I am feeling now will lessen knowing that I can trust them to hold me up, if I can’t stand alone.
Our service is at 7pm tonight at Presteign-Woodbine United Church, 16 Presteign Ave at St. Clair and O’Connor and you’re all welcome. If you do come, be sure to seek me out and say “hello”.
To everyone else, from my family to yours, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and the best for 2013.