Friday, October 8, 2010

Life Without Church - Part 2

Disclaimer: This is not an answer to my previous post: Life Without Church - Part 1. It is simply another piece of the journey.  


I was left with a longing in my heart and spirit when I left the baptism that day in August, and as the new school year began (we homeschool) I was searching for just the right thing to fill the longing for something more structured in our spiritual lives. My eyes landed on a little green book on my bookcase. I pulled it down. It had been a garage sale find - a Celtic prayer book. I picked it up because Mango's ancestors came from Scotland and because I have a certain affinity toward things that add tradition and ritual to daily life, though I find those things much more difficult to carry out in practice.
Over the years I have discovered something important about myself with regard to beginning a daily practice of anything. I know this may sound counter-intuitive, but I have to give myself permission to not actually do it every single day, to miss a day now and then. And I have to introduce it to Mane that way, too. Because Mane is 8 years old and still thinking in a mostly concrete way, I can't tell her this is something we're going to do every single day or she'll go crazy if we miss a day. So, I tell her, "We'll do this whenever we can, as often as possible. It might not be every day. We might miss a day, and that's ok."

When I'm talking to her, I'm talking to myself. It's ok to not be perfect, to make mistakes, to be flexible. My problem isn't that I'm too concrete. It's that I'm too much of a rule follower, having grown up in a rule following kind of family and a rule following kind of church. When I can't follow through, even when it's just my own rules, I feel defeated, a failure. So, I gave myself permission, from the get-go, to be flexible, to do what works, to make this our own prayer practice, not a rote, rule-following practice. And, we began.

Within a week I realized that we were meeting this need, filling this empty space. We need the [flexible] structure that that this little prayer book helps to provide. And we need the tradition and ritual that we're missing by not attending a church. Something about praying The Lord's Prayer with Mane every night helps me feel connected with other pilgrims on this journey everywhere, and I can relax knowing that she will know this prayer, too. And when she visits churches here or in Scotland or Russia or Mexico or some other unknown place where other believers join together in The Lord's Prayer, she will know it, too. I want her to have that.

We also say the Magnificat each night, which is the prayer or song of Mary, as recorded in the book of Luke. After hearing me read it for a week, Mane declared that she wanted to learn it. After hearing it for 3 weeks, she could recite it alone with no prompts. Two weeks later, I've learned it, too. I've written before about the power of repetition, how we move things from our right brain to our left brain and into our bodies through repetition (and, thus, memorization), and so I am delighted that Mane is learning such beautiful passages of scripture, prayers for her to cling to when she doesn't know what to pray for herself, prayers that she will believe in her mind and her body as she has learned them inside out.

Morning prayers include a time for us to pray over our own intentions for the day. Midday prayers have a space for congratulating ourselves for something. Evening prayers leave an opening for expressing gratitude and for petitions. I love that there is both structure and openness, liturgy and spontaneous prayer. I find that Mane appreciates the liturgical because she doesn't always know what to say in her own prayers. And I appreciate the prompt to speak my spontaneous prayers aloud, allowing Mane to "eavesdrop." I often keep my prayer life cloistered, though I have desperately wanted to teach her what it is to know and follow God. That seems a bit contradictory. So, using this prayer book pushes me to move out of my prayer closet and lead by example.

We don't want our lack of church attendance to mean that we raise a child who doesn't know scripture or understand prayer. Our intention has actually been the opposite - that she's understands authentic prayer and true Christianity better without the buzz of religiosity and legalism in her ears. It requires so much intentionality, though, to do that outside the structure of church-going. It requires us to build our own structure. This new practice of prayer (because it's actually pretty new for me, too, being a somewhat Catholic prayer book) is a piece of that structure. It isn't other pilgrims on the journey or the community we long for, but it's a connection to them, a link to all the generations of Christians who have gone before us and who walk beside us unawares.


Stay tuned...because I think parts 3 & 4 are coming. (If I tell you this, it will hold me accountable to actually writing those things...)

1 comment:

Heather of the EO said...

I'm staying tuned. And thinking and praying with you, friend.

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