Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Perplexities of Parenthood

Can words express the joy a tiny "preemie" brought into our home so long ago? Now ill and disabled, I don’t know how much she can heal. Some indications suggest she may not. She was not our first conception; she followed several spontaneous abortions--including twins. When natural birth seemed impossible, God in his infinite wisdom gave a child to a woman the doctor’s said would never bear her own child.

She survived infancy, contrary to medical proclamations. She lived a difficult childhood struggling  for adulthood as a lifelong asthmatic. One day she returned from her College campus and began helping us at church while attending college locally. Her joy was teaching pre-
schoolers and she became immersed in Preschool and Sunday school. She became especially involved when we restructured our Sunday services in an effort to win new families--we offered extended (free) preschool sessions as part of our Sunday worship experience.

We did not consider Norm when we made our decision--not his real name. He was very real, very warm and congenial, a dear personal friend. I appreciated him deeply during the years I knew him. He faithfully attended church, dearly loved his wife, and zealously guarded his family, but he had not accepted Christ. He brought her to church whenever the doors opened. He supported her financially and emotionally. He faithfully kept his grandchildren in attendance, but, he loved football more than church. He was a “Cornhusker”, a “Big Red” loyalist--fanatic.

When Autumn rolled came, you would might see him coming to Sunday School lugging a small portable TV under his arm. He didn’t hide it, nor was he offensive with it. We all knew he would quietly retire into an out-of-the-way corner in the adjoining Nursery School during worship and lose himself in the game of the day. East Coast scheduling often interfered with our Pacific Coast Sunday schedules, which meant that his favorite football game might come during church hours—PST.

We changed our scheduling with high hopes, and got more than we bargained for. Those extended hours for the Nursery School children began interrupting  Grandpa’s unobtrusive game-watching over in his formerly- quiet corner of silently following his game. He bothered no one with his game, but it soon became obvious that he absorbed as much Sunday school as he did football. Noting his awareness, our teacher-daughter kept her lesson plans simple and flexible, intentionally leaving room for creative interaction between her loving preschoolers and a  doting Grandpa. 

Eventually, he began asking occasional questions. He stayed in his game, but soon found new applications for old truths never internalized. Casually, cautiously, and relationally, teacher and children incorporated Grandpa into their learning experience rather than allowing it to hinder. He became more comfortable and slowly ventured onto a new path of personal growth. The cross-generational sharing exposed his limited faith to new growth and benefited everyone. 

She allowed her children to love him into their learning circle rather than treat his unsought presence as intrusive.  He eventually surrendered his life to Christ.  What could have discouraged her, and become an issue for church leaders, became her sharing of her vision, expanding her abilities, and enhancing her faith while advancing toward her nursing career.

Following his conversion, he lived as zealous for church as he had been for football, serving God and church until his death. The young teacher is now retired--disabled from 35+ years of nursing she loved more than life. As a dad, I’ve anguished as Life threw her some “unspeakable curveballs” that warped her sense of self-worth as a person. She still encounters former patients and co-workers who bless her for helping save some family member, but some some experiences indelibly scar one's psyche.

I long for her to recall the pleasure she had knowing that she played a pivotal role in bringing to Christ a person whose friendship she valued and respected. As I approach life’s sunset, I am more convinced than ever that whatever it is we are doing, we must never lose sight of where we are going. If I could somehow help her offload her “demons” and internalize that truth that guided her years—William Barclay said it but she practiced it--

“More people have been brought into the church by the kindness of real Christian love than by all the theological arguments in the world, and more people have been driven from the church by the hardness and ugliness of so-called Christianity than by all the doubts in the world.

Barclay's words prompt me to ask myself: isn’t that what Christian witnessing is all about? From Warner’s World, this is

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