Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Patience—Part II

     In my earlier Patience Part I essay, I said patience is a virtue. I meant it in a general sense in dealing with life's vagaries, seeming injustices, and minor inconveniences over which we have little control. Getting upset over slow traffic is merely self-destructive as it doesn't get it going any faster. Neither will fuming over high food and gas prices lower them. Nor will bitterness over a suboptimal job or unpublished writings cause the job to improve or writings to get published. We're better off accepting certain things with calm equanimity. (I've made peace a long time ago with my job situation—I love my job, the pay is more than ample, and the benefits are super—but it's still not optimal. As far as my writings go, I'm published in this blog; though I haven't made any money off my writings and my readership numbers are suboptimal, I'm okay with it for now—this blog's been up for only a half-year and I've enjoyed it.)
     One realm in which an overabundance of patience is not desirable is that of child rearing, particularly when kids act up, or get sloppy or lazy. We've all seen unruly, disruptive, whiny kids in the mall, airport, or restaurant with patient (lazy/neglectful/ineffectual) parents nearby ignoring them as if they were perfect angels, or asking them to stop it, but not really meaning it, as if such meager efforts suffice. It's obvious these kids always have their way, they lead unhappy and unstructured lives, and they never learned self-control or manners. It's too bad—it's not their faults, it's their parents.' (These kids will learn self control in time but such learning will probably happen only much later and at much steeper costs, and perhaps only at the hand of non-family outsiders.)
     In short, then, parents must discipline and teach their children on a strict and regular basis and not suffer their failings mildly. It's not enough to do it once in awhile or only for the most egregious transgressions, either, it must be done all the time for all transgressions. (The last is a joke as any reasonable parent knows, for it's impossible to correct and discipline all the time for every transgression for such attempts will soon turn counterproductive. But as an overall goal, and when a child is primed and ready, “consistency is the key,” as our friends of four well-behaved boys put it. Through experience we have learned that each child will eventually “get it” and behave well in general without prompting after he or she knows Mom and Dad mean business and won't budge.)
     We have thusly raised our kids with discipline and structure—quite strict by most standards. Their behavior—usually self-contained and disciplined—reflects this (Jaren being the notable exception at times—we're still working on it.) Structure, like consistent discipline, creates predictability and stability, which create security, which reduces misbehavior to reaffirm the boundaries, which reduces the need for discipline—all desirable in orderly households.
     So it may seem ironic that though we say grace before all our meals and prayers before each of their bedtimes, we have granted them great freedom in their Christian walks, meaning we never “forced” them to become Christian, to say they believe in God, to choose Jesus as their Lord and Savior, or to be baptized. The kids, on their own, have to make their own such decisions, we feel, perhaps the most personal of decisions, ones that can't and shouldn't be forced, faked, or made just to please others. It would have been easy for us to have gotten impatient and forced Braden, now fourteen, to get baptized, and he would have gone through the motions, but had he not felt changed inside, it would have been just for show and of little benefit to him, potentially harmful if it caused him to rebel against us and/or Christianity. On rare occasion we stated our hopes for him but made clear that the only thing that really mattered was what he felt, believed, and wanted for himself inside.
     Four months ago, our pastor offered a baptism and church membership class series to him and two other fourteen-year-old boys. Braden seemed so noncommittal that as the deadline neared, I felt certain he'd say, “I'm not interested,” but to my surprise and delight he said he'd be interested in going.
     The baptism and membership classes took place on Sundays after church throughout the two months leading up to Easter. During the last class, the boys were asked to decide by Wednesday whether they'd like to be baptized and/or become church members. Again, Braden seemed so noncommittal up to Tuesday evening that I felt certain he'd say, “I'm not ready yet.” But when we told him after dinner that Pastor M. needs an answer by tomorrow, call and leave a message on the church office's answering machine, what have you decided?, he said I'd like to do both.
     On Good Friday, Braden participated in two services by reading scripture verses.
     Saturday evening, he stayed overnight at the church with church staff and the two other boys being baptized. And Easter morning, he accompanied a group to sunrise service at Makapuu Blow Hole.
     Easter service proper at our church started like any other, but soon got into the lead-up to the boys' baptisms. The boys each recited in turn their Christian Creeds that they (and the leaders) had developed—beautiful statement of faith.
     We have had a longish history with the two other boys—they were both in scouting with Braden ever since we moved into the area and over a year before we started attending this particular church, which they had been attending all along (unknown to us) with their moms. All three boys had been to varying degrees immature, bratty, shy, and lacking in confidence, with chips on their shoulders. So watching them over the past three-and-a-half years mature into voice-changed adolescents and tall and able men-to-be, and hearing them now speak their Christian faiths so unabashed and committed, I felt as if they had reached a culmination of sorts in the eyes of God and man, a crossing of a boundary into a new life in Christ, proof positive to all present that God was and is faithful and everyone's toils and prayers through the years had not been in vain but worth it, yet nothing compared to God's love for the boys.
     Braden had come perhaps the farthest—a difficult strong-willed child that we, naive and slow to learn, struggled, strived, and railed against. I felt not so much pride during the ceremony as overwhelming relief that no matter what happened, he was God's and He would take care of him. Our job was done as far as his first, great step/leap of faith went. I wept, mouth aquiver, throughout the ceremony. It's such a lovely and accepting church that I felt no shame or inhibition whatsoever—only profound gratitude.
     Up to then, I knew that Braden had all the head knowledge necessary to comprehend Christianity's tenets, but I never felt certain that he felt its reality—close and warm-or had chosen to believe. I had numerous doubts whether he'd ever believe. I hadn't reaffirmed my Christian faith until I was twenty-seven (my parents had brought us to church for one year which was when I first believed as an eight-year-old; I had been praying off and on on my own since then) and I was fully prepared for him to take his time to decide, too. So it all came as a blessed surprise when he told us of his intentions even though I inwardly questioned his sincerity. It was only after he got up with the boys and stood there waiting to recite his lines that it hit me that it really was going to happen and he really did believe. It was the most I cried over him since forty minutes leading up to his birth when he attained zero-station (the narrowest gap in the birthing process) and I knew then, too, that it really was going to happen—God was going to bless us with a child.

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