Advent: n. onset, beginning, commencement, start
Sometimes I think the contradictions and paradoxes within us make finding a balance impossible. And yet balance is what I desire. Balance in our approach to homeschooling. Balance in responsibility and utterly abandoned fun. Balance between self-sacrifice and self-respect. Balance between work and home. Balance between family time and alone time. Balance between social interaction and solitude. Balance between introspection and spontaneity.
Perhaps the biggest personal struggle for balance I have fought of late has been that between the desire to instruct my children in faith, give them meaningful traditions, and yet not bind them in chains of religious obligation. I feel the responsibility so very deeply to teach them the freedom in Christ, the deep love of the Father, the redemption that was paid for, and, yes, the willing and grateful submissive response that should evoke in us. But I am loathe to instill in them any obligatory service, any guilt or manipulation-driven duty, any empty religiosity. It is a grave danger and causes me to walk a tightrope. Especially in the season of holy days. I want to give them a foundation - to give myself meaningful celebrations and reminders of the God I choose to worship - but it is requiring a careful evaluation of what I have done, why I have done it, and if it is worthy of continuance.
This struggle has not been so great in recent years because, frankly, financial and spatial resources to make celebrations have been limited. This year, however, there is a new home. Room for a Christmas tree. Finances, albeit limited ones, to purchase special gifts or ritual components. But which are worthy? What do I want my kids to take away from this? What carries meaning for us? It has been a process.
God has brought a dear friend into my life that has been a joy to examine this with. Interestingly, she does not share our Christian beliefs...but our conversations about our respective faiths, their traditions, the pitfalls of their organizations, the things we hope to pass on to our kids...these conversations have been such a blessing to me. It has been an eye-opener to me, someone who always hung out with other Christians, to have to answer her questions. Why do I believe certain things? What is meaningful to me? All too often I have just done whatever was accepted Christian practice in my circle of Christian friends. OF COURSE we do this activity...OF COURSE we celebrate in this manner...but why? Because it's always been done that way? This year I have had the joy of discussing with my husband what is of import to us. And deciding how to pass those things on to our kids. Together. In the context of our home and life in our community. It is a humble beginning, but I believe a blessed one.
We have chosen to put up a Christmas tree this year. Partly because our kids requested one and partly because the few decorations that survived the massive downsizing form a sort of family history. They are things from my childhood, my husband's childhood, decorations made by our children's little hands; it is a testament to the redemption and rebuilding that we have undergone which was only possible by the healing and forgiveness made available in Christ. We have also chosen to introduce the Advent wreath. We aren't following a "set" liturgy in this; we are not doing it on Sundays. Our weekends are Tuesday and Wednesday, so we began the advent wreath with the candle of hope tonight. We had a short discussion of the prophecies of the Messiah and the hope of the captive Israelites in the Savior that would come.
We are beginning to lay a foundation for our kids. A reminder to ourselves. It is a simple tradition that we begin. I hope that we can find the balance in it. That we can pass on the mystery of a loving God and His redemption without binding our kids in chains of tradition and obligation that lose their meaning.
With the candle of hope that we light tonight, my prayer is that Emmanuel, God with us, will truly come to our home. That the hope for faith without religion, redemption without guilty obligation, love without expectation will be realized as we learn to live better in the reality of Emmanuel.