Got an opportunity – and some work to do.
Okay, so when kids graduate from the intermediate elementary Christian Formation program at my parish, our parish presents them with a personalized Book of Common Prayer. (“BCP”; the corporate prayer book of the Episcopal church.) We have the books engraved with their name in gold print on the cover of a red hard-cover edition. And inside, as the Christian Formation Coordinator, I and our priest write a few words for each child. I’ve been doing this for a number of years now, and I’ve taken great delight in finding a special encouragement, word, or Bible verse or BCP page that’s especially suited to each child.
This past May I had a new experience: writing in one of these books that would actually be returning to my own home! I’d often wondered how much lap time these books get – now my own son would be the proud owner of one.
Writing in your own son’s book ought to be the easiest of all, right? Wrong! All that time spent lovingly on words for other people’s children – this one that would be signed “love, Mom” not merely, God bless you, put a little extra pressure on me. So, interestingly enough, I didn’t have his book signed in time for the public presentation. I told him I needed it back so I could write in it.
He didn’t especially care. That has been his modus operandi all his life. Neutral to antagonistic to church life. Mostly neutral, though the folks who are kind enough to supply salami or cheddar cheese when their name comes up for coffee hour….well, let’s just say those folks have been Christ for my son, and are largely, along with his friends, what keep him coming back without too much complaint.
Eventually I signed the book, gave it to him while saying good night, and invited him to join me in praying from it. (always looking for the teachable moment, and the tender mom-son moment of any kind!) He accepted, and we agreed to do it every night.
Well, I’m sure there’s no great gasp of surprise that that didn’t last forever. No matter. I’ve always tried to handle evangelism in general with a light touch – taking to heart the words attributed to St. Francis – preach the gospel always, use words if necessary. Meaning, however imperfect, a life lived is more important than the right words spoken.
Imagine my surprise tonight, months later, when he opens the BCP up to my signed bit, and is unclear on my cursive letters, taking an interesting twist on the meaning I’d intended! He asked me before doing so though, when are we ever going to read the bible together, mom?
Frank Guilt Admission time: I rarely read the bible in front of my children and rarer still with my children outside Sunday school. I was puzzled. I soon realized he was referring to his BCP, and his memories of the family prayer service we had used together as a bedtime prayer routine for a time.
Explaining things to children is a wonderful exercise in achieving clarity. I his usual pre-teen bravado, he blew off any distinction between a BCP and a Bible. “Same difference.” <heavy sigh> Well, no, they’re not the same thing. The BCP borrows from the Bible, but whole stories and books of the Bible are not in the BCP. It’s a wonderful book of prayers that Episcopalians have put together to pray together, but it’s not in the same importance category as the Bible, that all Christians treasure.
A door cracked open to pray and read the bible with my 10-year-old son? God grant me the discipline, patience and the undoubted to follow joy to do so faithfully!
Heavenly Father. Thank you for entrusting my children to my care and love. Help me to guide them to know you and love you more and more each day. Draw out their special gifts and show them the ways and places to share them with others. In Jesus name. Amen.