I’ve been invited to write a monthly column for the website Practicing Families. It’s
focus subtitle is ‘Real Faith, Real Life, Real Grace.’ In other words, how do normal families in the ‘normal’ world practice the faith in their homes and pass it on to their kids.
As someone who gets paid to be a Christian, I’m probably the last person who should be writing on this subject. Nonetheless, I’ll try. If you have any questions about or any experiences you’d like to share about ‘the spiritual life and kids’ I’d love to hear from you.
I encourage you to check out Practicing Families.
As a teaser of things to come, here’s a reflection I wrote about the grace-filled lesson I learned from picking my son up from school. If you like this, then check out my eBook: Jesus is like Gandalf & 9 Other Things My Boys Have Taught Me about God.
A week or two ago I was late picking up my youngest son, Gabriel, from school. On my way to my car, I got waylaid by a tear-stained church member who proceeded needed to dump about 3 decades worth of marital anguish on me.
It was the kind of encounter that, even when you don’t actually enter the conversation, it’s tricky to make a clean exit:
‘I’m sorry you’re in the midst of an emotional and spiritual crisis, but, my, look at the time! I’ve got to run. Call my secretary and have her put you on my calendar for a more convenient time. In the meantime, I’ll pray for you. Bye!’
In truth, I was only a few minutes late. The crossing guard had just left his post. Teachers cars still filled the parking lot. A few parents lingered on the playground chatting.
I wasn’t that late. It was just a few minutes.
But to Gabriel those few minutes were everything.
Because up until that day he’d always been able to rely on me being exactly where he expected me: By the tree, next to the flag pole.
Before that day I’d always been steadfast.
And- I know I’m projecting now- but, seeing the scared, lonely expression on his face when I finally came for him, it reminded me of the first day we spent with him. It reminded me of our ‘Gotcha Day’ (which for him, at the time, was experienced as ‘Leftcha Day’) the Easter afternoon when baby Gabriel looked around for his foster mother only to discover she’d left while he was playing with these two strangers on the floor of the hotel lobby.
Here’s one of the things my kids have taught me.
You won’t read this in a What to Expect When You’re Expecting book. I doubt it’s been a featured theme on Super Nanny.
And, I admit, it sounds minimalist but I daresay any child of divorce- including this one- would beg to differ with you.
Here it goes:
80% of parenting is just showing up.
Being there when they expect you.
Being there when they need you.
And being there even when they don’t think they need you.
Believe it or not, Hebrew has a word for this ‘I’ll meet you by the tree, next to the flag pole every day’ kind of love.
It’s called hesed.
It’s a love based in a covenantal relationship, hesed is a steadfast, rock-solid, I’ll-be-there-no-matter-what faithfulness that endures:
“Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love (hesed) for you will not be shaken” Isaiah 54:10.
Hesed is the kind of love that persists beyond any sin or betrayal to mend brokenness and graciously extend forgiveness:
“No one is cast off by the Lord forever. Though he brings grief, he will show compassion, so great is his unfailing love (hesed).” (Lamentations 3:31-32)
Hesed, as any first semester Hebrew Bible student knows, is how God loves.
Like other Hebrew words, hesed is not simply a feeling. It’s an action. It intervenes on behalf of loved ones and comes to their rescue. It’s often translated as “mercy” or “loving-kindness.”
Those translations mask how hesed is meant to convey an unswerving, reliable loyalty in every instance.
Not just in the dramatic Exodus, Burning Bush moments.
Hesed is love that can be counted on, day after day and year after year. It’s not about the thrill of romance, but the security of faithfulness. Hesed is the promise that
‘God’s steadfast love endures forever.’
Hesed is Jesus’ promise:
‘Behold I am with you always…’
I first learned the word hesed in college. I learned to decline the Hebrew in seminary.
But it wasn’t until I had kids that I really discovered what hesed means.
Before I had kids I worried that parenting meant always having the right answer, always knowing exactly what to do or say, constantly doing everything according to the books so that I would rear healthy, loving, secure, gifted children.
Now I know that not only was that naive, it was unnecessary.
Because if hesed means that God’s love clings to us steadfastly through every moment of every day, then that means no moment of every day is without grace.
There is no moment of any day, in other words, that isn’t made sacred.
Just by God showing up and being there.
And if that’s how God’s love works for us, then ditto for how our love works with our kids.
Something as mundane as meeting my boy by the tree next to the flagpole is as holy as Moses by the Burning Bush.