for release February 15, 2002
by Melodie Davis
Time for a Spiritual Check Up
I was doing one of my not-favorite chores: reconciling the checkbook with the bank statement. Somehow the months slide by and before I know it, I have 4-5 months to reconcile instead of just one month.
And so the corrections pile up too: I usually just list the corrections and then add them all up and take them off en mass: a few cents too much here, a check I forgot to record, a service fee I never put down, maybe a deposit I forgot to enter. I know, this probably sounds like the dark ages to those (like my daughter) who do everything online or don't get returned checks. No matter how you do your banking, most people still need some system of regular checking to see if their records agree with the bank's.
And somehow for me, the pluses never equal the minuses. I always come up short-with more money to subtract from my account than add in. There are always things to fix in my checkbook.
For those of the Christian faith, the season of Lent, which began February 13, is kind of like one marathon session of "reconciling the checkbook." It is a time to examine your life, look at your minuses and fix them. It might even be a time to assess where your family is in its religious training.
Lent is a time to reconcile with others and with God. I was intrigued when the Catholic Church began calling their sessions of confession with a priest "reconciliation" instead of "confession." I guess reconciliation is a good word for spiritual accounting as well as financial bookkeeping.
Then it hit me: even though I always end up with more minuses than pluses in my spiritual and emotional life, God's grace covers my minuses. I may not measure up, but God gives me a new checking account every day to begin afresh and says: "I don't keep old accounts. Enjoy, and don't mess up today!"
To some young people, faith may seem as outdated as the concept of keeping a paper checkbook. While we always need new forms and expressions of faith, throwing out all faith is like trying to keep a checking account without any records at all. Sooner or later, it will catch up to you. Checks will bounce. Credit will go bad. Accounts will be closed.
So it is when all faith is abandoned. It will catch up to you. Life will go bad-sapped of joy and meaning. At least that's the way it seems to me.
But sometimes we as parents are at fault. I was reading one woman's account of trying to talk to her 12-year-old daughter about the spiritual message that she, the mother, was hearing in the song they were listening to. Her daughter was simply not interested. Then her mother realized that she had not instilled enough faith and religious teachings in her daughter for the conversation to have any meaning. How sad. Of course, parents can go the other way, too, pushing their children to go through the motions of religion, with the result of a child rebelling against that. Neither course is good.
It is never too late for either situation: even though we may not have taught our children as well as we should have, or if we pushed them more than we should have, we can stand back, examine our approach, and begin to change.
I am currently teaching a Sunday school class of third through fifth graders. They are very typical of most kids: active, bore quickly, but I'm amazed not only at how well they seem to learn when presented the Biblical material, but how much there is to learn when it comes to this heritage and history. Children who read and study at home on their own know just that much more. For example, on Martin Luther King, Jr. Sunday, after I taught the children how the Sadducees and Pharisees were powerful leaders who worried about Jesus getting too much power, one fourth grader astutely made the observation that Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated for similar reasons as Jesus: both had enemies who feared their power.
Maybe we can use this season of Lent, not only as a chance to pause and reflect on our own shortcomings and make amends, but as a time to take inventory of how we are teaching our children the facts and stories from our faith heritage. This can take on many facets: a spiritual check up can help us reflect on whether we are living out our beliefs in front of our children, or whether they hear one thing and see another.
For a free booklet, "Talking With Your Children About God," write to: Melodie Davis, Another Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail: Melodie@mennomedia.org.
You can also visit Another Way on the Web at www.thirdway.com.
Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from a number of organizations including the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three growing daughters.
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