My dad took me to my confirmation classes every Sunday morning. There was a Lutheran church half a block from where we lived that we ‘belonged’ to, that confirmed me. (Who knows what I was confirmed as? I suppose I could look it up, but it makes a better point to not know, right? Maybe I was confirmed to be awesome. Or super-spiritual. Or something.) I don’t know how old I was, maybe 10 or 11, and I have absolutely no idea what they taught on those Sunday mornings. My dad told me it was important, and I’m sure it was to some of the other kids in my class. The problem, the reason it didn’t sink in, that I have totally forgotten it, that as soon as I was confirmed I left that church and never went back, was that even though he took me every week, even though he told me how valuable it was, he lied.
Now, that’s probably way too harsh. To say he lied implies some sort of intent, and I don’t think he meant to deceive me in the least. He probably thought he believed it was important.
He just didn’t.
This is nothing that is particularly unique to him, I’m the same way.
I tell my boys it’s important to eat lots of fruit and vegetables and stay away from sugar and other junk foods. And maybe someday they’ll write that I lied. I suppose I don’t really think it is too important, because any time I have the opportunity to eat a donut, I do. And I think most vegetables are punishment and to be avoided at all costs.
There’s a saying, attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, “Preach the Gospel at all times and if necessary use words.” This speaks to the simple fact that the most effective, honest way to communicate our beliefs is our actions. We are all teachers, even if we are completely unaware of this fact. And if, in our lessons, our actions don’t match our words, which one do you think wins?
If I am constantly drilling Samuel with the value of telling the truth, then he walks in the room to hear me call off “sick” from work so I can sleep in, which do you think makes the deeper impression?
If Elisha constantly hears me listing the virtues of exercise, yet never get off the couch…
My words might be 100% spot on, they’re just not part of the curriculum I’m teaching.
I remember that surprisingly powerful commercial when the boy, after being found with drugs, screams, “I learned it from watching you!!!!” Could that dad tell his kids how important it is to ‘just say no,’ while he was saying Yes?
Well, sure, he can. They’re just not listening.
So, the BIG question is, do I really believe the things I say I do? My dad didn’t think church was a big deal, never set foot in a church. (Maybe that’s not true – I do think I remember him being there for my special confirmation, but it’s fuzzy. Maybe he was.) I don’t know why he took me every week. Maybe it looked a certain kind of way and gave an impression he wanted to give, or maybe he just wanted his boy to have the base he didn’t. All I know was that I was paying very close attention.
Do we believe the things we say we do? It takes a focused examination and an honesty that requires a ridiculous amount of courage to find out. And then, once we find out that not every area is in line (because we will), then what do we do with that? Will we continue the heart- (and back-) breaking work and drop the hollow words, or worse, bring our lives into alignment with our values?
It’s hard, of course, it is. But no one ever said it would be easy, just that it would be worth it.