Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Untended Weeds

I left the parsonage about ten o'clock for an evening walk. I walked Main street into the downtown Post Office, to deliver some late mail. En route I visited with Officer Mike who I found observing the youthful “cruisers.” I met Bill H_ fishing off the Main Street bridge and recalled that Bill had brought his dad to the funeral I conducted the previous Friday for one of his dad’s relatives.

I found walking at this time of evening especially enlightening. It brought me closer to the realities of my city, as well as to the ministry of Jesus. I found traffic considerable. Kids with wheels cruised the streets, with all that goes with cruising. Four-letter obscenities filled the air, frequently shouted from car windows. Vulgarities occasionally came my direction as well, directed in passing by both boys and girls.

These are the mindless … without particular objective … en route nowhere … their wheels going around. Without purpose, and without any sense of direction, they came from nowhere, and went nowhere. Filled with anger and cynicism, they ask questions … such was life in the final years of my last pastorate, before returning to Battle Creek.

I re-read the words I wrote then. As I view the world a few years later, I still wonder “where are their families?” Current events fill my mind with the likes of youthful Jared Loughner, sitting in jail in Tucson, AZ. Whatever else he is, he is part of a confused, isolated, and disenchanted generation that remind me of the discussion between the English poet Coleridge and his occasional visitor.

The man visiting Coleridge‘s home went so far as to air his views to the poet. He expressed the folly he felt of people giving early moral and religious instruction to small children. He said they ought to be left free in their minds.

Without arguing the point, Coleridge later asked his visitor if he would like to see his (Coleridge’s) garden. When the visitor looked at Coleridge’s mass of tangled weeds, he exclaimed to Coleridge, “why this is no garden! This is nothing but weeds!”

Coleridge’s only reply was, “You see, I did not wish to restrain the liberty of the garden, but left it to choose for itself what it should bring forth.”

His reply puts me in mind of the young Air Force wife that prepared to accompany her husband to Japan. A nominal Christian, she held membership in a mainline denomination. She expressed her eager anticipation at introducing her children to the rich culture of Japan. She reflected on the sites she planned to visit with her children, sites like the famed Shinto Shrine, the great Buddha, et al.

When I wondered how she was going to handle these with her children, she quietly told me that the children, like Coleridge’s garden, should be free to make up their own minds and form their own opinions. Sounds good.

The problem is, as Coleridge pointed out to his visitor, that kind of teaching generally produces a healthy crop of undesirable weeds. The following verse makes the same point in a poetic fashion:

Mary had a little boy; His soul seemed white as snow,
He never went to Sunday School, “Cause Mary wouldn’t go.

He never heard the stories of Christ, That thrill the childish mind.
While other children went to class, This child was left behind.

And as he grew from babe to youth, She saw to her dismay,
The soul, once white, Had turned to dirty gray.

Realizing he was lost, She tried to win him back,
But, now the soul once pure and white, Had turned an ugly black.

She even started back to church, and Sunday School too!
She begged the preacher, “Isn’t there a thing that you can do?”

The preacher tried, and failed and said, “We’re just too far behind;
I tried to tell you years ago, But you would pay no mind.”

And so, another soul is lost, That once seemed white as snow:
Sunday school would once have helped, “But Mary wouldn’t go!

The picture shows several football players lined up behind their leader, a young man that I know well. He reminds me that a leader is a person who has people that will follow him. I salute you, Austin, for you’re your leadership abilities. I am so pleased that you and Kody grew to manhood as something more than untended weeds.

This is Warner’s World asserting that no child deserves to be left behind, and no child needs neither abusing nor brain washing, but every child comes with an inalienable right of good parenting

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