Saturday, September 25, 2010

Learning to be Loved

Once again, Stanley Hauerwas steals my words...or maybe I've read him enough to have arrived at the same words without hearing them from him.  That's a scary thought to some.  Oh well.  :-)

There is really no pattern to learning about love.  I tend to think that it can happen a number of ways for different people.  For me, I first knew love because of my family.  And now, though I still have a number of selfish bones in my body that need breaking, I do certainly enjoy sacrificing for others from time to time (part of this came with the difficulty of a first year in marriage...and then a kid...and then a few more).  But when it comes to love, I still have a really hard time accepting that God would love me.  I quite often stupidly (yet subconsciously) still think that I have things to prove before God would ever do that.  

When the grace-full love of God hits me hard, it's an incredibly wonderful thing.  This is that whole Aldersgate experience.

I think this is what Stan is getting at above.  A mature love might be arrived at like this:
1A First we think that love is that warm and fuzzy thing that makes us feel good.
1B Next we think that love is something we receive.
2B Then we think that love is something we give.
2A By which we come to find out that it quite often hurts.

...but hopefully, we finally dive into the realization that it's unfathomably all of the above (and more) wrapped up together in one beautiful mess.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A "Fascinated" Society

I find this commercial a bit fascinating (no pun intended, Samsung).  I find it interesting because of the number of commentaries it makes on today's society.  While Samsung succeeded in being funny, there is a whole sermon series within the minute and seven seconds.  If I had more time, I'd expound.  Maybe I will at some point, but for now, don't count on it.  The commitments I make on this blog don't have a good history.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Response to Last Post

I've gotten a number of responses to my last post - School Buses & God the Father, a few here in the comments section, and some more on Facebook and by email.  Thanks to everyone for the solidarity.  But one response, from Eric, asked for some clarification:

First, Eric - I don't believe that I know you, which makes online communication quite difficult, and often almost impossible.  The best venue for discussion is incarnational and in relationship.  We don't have that, so please keep that in mind.  But allow me to try and clarify your questions.

Jeremy,Thank you for your post. However, I am a little confused on a couple of issues. I am not an expert on the Bible, but i am eager to learn. First, I would like you to elaborate on your comment that "God is first and foremost a being of love and grace." Where do you derive this from? 

First off, it appears that we may be operating in slightly different understandings of who God is based upon the sources from which we draw our faith and understandings.  The Bible plays a big role for me and is an authority, but it's not the only source.  I come from the Wesleyan tradition which seeks understanding and faith from a variety of sources, most often the things of scripture, reason, tradition, and experience.

I mention this because the basis of your questions seems to be drawn solely upon scripture.  And while it's extremely important to me, the Bible is not the only thing from which I draw my understandings of the nature of God.

What passage tells us that God's love is first in the order of His attritbutes? What passage tells you that there is a "foremost" attribute and, consequently, an attribute that is "last" in priority? 

Good call!  I'm glad you called me out on this.  "Foremost" was a bad choice of wording.  You are right that our hope is not to fashion God into that which we desire, but to seek God who already is, and shift ourselves to desire the great I AM.

However, I'll stick with the wording of "first."  My understanding of creation and the initiative that God made in creation was that God did so out of love.  God's first impulse was love.  It's my belief that our greatest understanding of God comes from the incarnation, life, death, life again, and ascension of Jesus Christ.  And the gospels are saturated with the notion that the impetus for the incarnation is the love of God.  If you're desiring a passage, what is likely the most famous verse in scripture will suffice, but so also will the whole of I John.  There's great stuff in there: "This is the message we have known from the beginning...", a message of light and love.

If you have such a passage, where does it teach that God exercises this love in the releasing of His children to the spirit of the age and the prince of this world? 

Okay, now I'm the one who is confused.  I didn't say that God releases his children to the spirit of the age and the prince of this world.  I'm not sure how you arrived there (unless you mean to say that public schools are that age and that prince, with which I would disagree).  What I did say is that God the Creator/Father allows the space for his creatures to choose to chase after him...or not.

I am curious simply because it seems, on the surface, that such an action would be the antithesis of love. In fact, it could be construed at best as neglectful and, at worst, cruel. 

I agree.

I would also be interested to know what your views are on discipline with your children. I assume you accept the Biblical mandate to do so and that, as God deals with His sons, you chastise them out of love. But why do you do this? What is your objective? Again, I assume it is to teach them to love the good and hate the evil. You are showing them the Divine model that evil choices will result in pain, righteous ones with praise. But is that not a manipulation of the will? Are you not conditioning your child toward a particular end? Are you not limiting their "freedom" by directing their will in one direction and away from another? And so I am left confused. Are you loving your child when you do this, or are you going against love by teaching them the way of righteousness, rather than allowing them to find it on their own. And if you do choose to release them into the world, as the prodigal example you gave seems to suggest, will they really be free to make their own decisions? Your own words seem to say no: "I truly hope that he learns from his teachers and classmates. I believe that they will all teach him things that, as his parents, Meghan and I can't." Is not the goal of education similar to that of discipline: To instruct on what is true and what is false; what is right and what is wrong; what is beautiful and what is ugly? This also seems to be a manipulation of the will. Why can't the child learn these things for themselves? If they are not capable, then what is it that these "teachers and classmates" possess that you and Meghan do not. Considering what Paul says in 2 Tim 3:16-17, I can't imagine what that would be. And so I remain a bit confused. If influencing the will in a particular direction is to attach "balls and chains" to the subject, are we going against God's example by training our children in a Christian home? If so, are we guilty of the same by allowing them to go into a secular environment to have the same done by those who are enemies of God?Please clarify these for me if you would. In Christ,Eric

It's difficult for me to ascertain what you're asking here.  What it seems to me is that you're setting up a false and simple dichotomy that implies that we either set our child outside the doorstep after s/he's take a first breath, or shelter every minute of their lives from the outside world.

Part of what I was saying in the post is that it's a difficult thing to know how and when and if to hold back or to let go.  Absolutely, our children are in our care: Meghan and I are in great part their stewards, and make many a decision for them.  But what we know is that someday, at a later age, we will no longer hold much of (if not all of) this stewardship.  Someday, they will make their own decisions with little or no help from us (I shudder at the thought!).  So in the meantime, as they are under our care and stewardship, we will do all that we can to help foster and train them for that time of life.  Absolutely, we are seeking to foster (I'll refrain from the very you used: "condition", though that may work too) that they follow a certain path.  No, I do not believe that is manipulation.  Manipulation would be demanding conformity in all situations.  We are not doing that - we are wrestling with the tension of choosing for them at young ages and gradually allowing them to choose for themselves so that when they are of age, they will not be clueless as to how to live life.

I fear that I've not answered all of your points of clarification (I confess to not being able to ascertain all of what you're asking).  But hopefully this helps a bit.

Grace & Peace,

Thursday, September 09, 2010

School Buses & God the Father

So I began this blog in great part due to the fact that we had our first kid, Brayden Wesley Scott.  I entitled it "Still Learning" because if having a child implied was that I have a lot to learn.  Some would laugh at this post, others would nod somewhat patronizingly in memory of feelings long past, others still may have similar feelings that are recent and fresh.  Regardless, I share it because I need to.

About fifteen minutes ago Meghan and I just let a huge part of Brayden go.  We let him get on a bus with some driver-dude I've never met.  And now Brayden is under the influence of people I have never had control over: children who have been raised by parents other than Meghan & me and teachers & aides who will influence him in ways that Meghan and I have not, will not, and cannot.  He will be hurt.  He will likely hurt others.  He will interact with people, ideas, and systems that we wish he wouldn't.  This great part of his life will be out of our choice.

I ashamedly confess that I used to look down upon home-schooling. I regret such ignorant presumption. This was yet another situation where I thought for sure that I knew best: "How are kids supposed to learn social skills?", etc.  But surely...I understand a bit more now. I understand - at least from my perspective - the desire to home-school and I believe there are times and places to do so.  

Because it's not that we can't control this.  We could keep him home.  We could even move to northern Canada and just live "safely" as a family away from the whole world.  I'm pretty sure we could teach him the academics if we worked hard enough (although, having a public educator as a parent myself, I believe that teachers do often know better than parents).  I may even be able to teach him social skills without actually being social (though probably not).  But I'm not sure that we could very well teach him the nature of God the Father...who lets us go.

For Meghan and I, we've looked at it this way:
Of all the things we want for our children, we want the most for them to see the nature of God in us (including our parenting).  As Wesleyan-Arminians, we believe that God is first and foremost a being of love and grace.  Even as I grow with the pains of parenting, I'm learning more about this.  It's surely arrogant and presumptuous, but I feel like I understand just a bit more the compassionate God who suffers for and with us because God lets us go.  I'm not ignorant to the fact that many (even most?) these days believe that God is a God who controls everything, mostly because they run on that Greek platonic belief that God by very definition is omnipotent.  Don't get me wrong - God is indeed all-powerful, but the primacy of my understanding of the nature of God is that of love and grace.  And by and grace only exist where there is freedom.

God does not make us love.
God makes us to love.

I wonder if I've felt the macrocosmic heart of a creative God today in this microcosmic releasing of Brayden to a school bus.   When God released humanity on earth in the biblical creation story, it's portrayed by God setting Adam & Eve in the garden with some guidance and instructions...yet without balls and chains.  I feel this way today. We also see the same nature in the loving Father toward the prodigal son.  Many parenting styles today would say, " son, of course you cannot have your inheritance money because you'll spend it frivolously."  Some would even build a fenced-in pen to keep the son in.  Yet the loving Father in that parable lets the son go free.  The son finds his own pen, and surely a much more disgusting one than the Father could have built for his son.  Meghan and I feel that our job as parents isn't always to make our kids comfortable, but rather to comfort them in the situations of life.  In the parable, the course of events allows that when the son returns for forgiveness, he has a perspective on the world, life, and love that the son who stayed home can't fathom.

Back to the creation story: it shows God's curiosity in watching what humanity would do.  I also feel that way today.  Brayden is such an incredible kid.  I truly hope that he learns from his teachers and classmates.  I believe that they will all teach him things that, as his parents, Meghan and I can't.  And when he is taught or experiences things that are contrary to the will and nature of God, we will continue to do our best to show him otherwise.  You could call these "teachable moments."  Scripture is full of them.

Our greatest hope is that this small release today will help Brayden understand the nature of God the Father all the more.  Probably not right now.  In fact, he may even be angry at us at some point for letting him get hurt (read the psalms, anyone?).  But my hopeful prayer is that, in the long run, it will be best for him in knowing who God is and thus, who he as God's child should be.

(By the way, the girls started preschool yesterday too.  Here are some pictures from yesterday and today.)

UPDATE: Despite any fear to the contrary, Brayden did come home and get off the bus just fine.  And he had a good time.  And the bus driver introduced himself to us.  His name is Paul.  And he's nice.