As one more school year winds to a close and another summer begins, we look forward to having fun in the sun, spending more time together as a family, feeling a bit more carefree, maybe even going on vacation. But blink and summer will be at an end and a new school year will start; our children will be in the next grade up or maybe just starting school for the first time; some may have children taking off for college; some may be expecting another addition to their family. All of these examples are lessons in blessing and letting go – even the act of giving birth is essentially letting go of our newest child as they enter the world separate from our bodies’ protection for the first time.
A paragraph from this last chapter makes particular note of the author’s goal in writing about practices of faith and specifically about the practice of blessing, and I’d like to include it here:
One big problem with any book on spirituality is that there is hardly any way to read along and not feel as if you were just assigned one more thing to do. Almost invariably, we see the advice as a blueprint for what we must do to earn our way into the spiritual elite, the inner circle of spirituality of those who are calm and prayerful. In this chapter, I would like to make one more attempt to dispel this myth.
The phrase “in the midst of chaos” itself suggests that our efforts to practice our faith usually take place amid conditions we don’t really control. Parenting constantly brings us to relinquishment, of self and ideals and dreams, of the other person, the infant, soon to be a child, soon to be an older child, soon to be a youth, soon to be a young adult. Just when I thought I had it down in those early weeks and months of parenting, my child would up and change. Damn. (A far cry from “God bless it,” I’m afraid.) Of course, those early changes were just the beginning.
We parents are always coming up against our limits – limits that come in all shapes and sizes. The first and often hidden step in the practice of blessing and letting go is to recognize this.
The whole of this book has been to show us the small but significant things we can do and probably already do in our daily life in practicing our faith as parents. It’s an encouragement in knowing that just by playing with our kids, reading to them, conversing with them, pondering on them, blessing them and taking the ordinary moments of daily life with them and making them sacred, we are practicing our Christian faith. …care of children as a spiritual practice demands that we ask how parenthood and the shape of family life make us and our children better persons in the world as a whole. [Letting go is a practice which] reminds us that we are not finally in control, that we are limited and finite. Ultimately, we are called to release our children in lament and joy. We turn them over to others and the rest of the world in trust, and we give them back to God in love.
We adopt specific faith practices for God’s sake and in response to God’s love, and not for the “sake of a preferred way of life,” as theologian Miroslav Volf puts it. We adopt them because they connect us, enliven us, and move us to experience God.
I hope this book and specifically this series of posts has been a blessing to you and has allowed you to be encouraged in your walk as a parent and as a child of God. None of these practices would come so naturally without the Holy Spirit working in us, but loving our children is natural, and that love gives us a small glimpse into the love our Father has for us. God bless!
All green text comes from Chapter 9 of In the Midst of Chaos by Bonnie J. Miller-McLemore