One of the by-products of having children is that eventually they grow up; and like it or not – ready or not (!) – they do begin to have lives of their own! I’m reminded of this about now because after a wonderful summer in which we got to spend some good and quality time with them, our now adult children are back out in the world and busy with their own endeavors in places as near as Concord and as far flung as the Northern Maine woods and the beet fields of Minnesota! The good news is that all three are doing exactly what they feel called to be doing at this point in their lives, and their mother and I rejoice in this and wish them well wherever they happen to be. Of course, as is a parent’s wont to do so, we still worry about them, wherever they happen to be; and in all honesty we do sometimes hold on to the furtive wish that we could have them always nearby, so to hold them close forever.
But that’s not how it goes, is it? After all, parenting is ultimately an on-going and increasing process of holding on and letting go, all for the sake of preparing them (and ourselves) for that time when the same children who once held tightly to our hands go boldly into the world as young adults with hopes and dreams for their own lives. In the process, however, we parents discover that wherever they go and whatever they do, whatever distance separates us, one thing remains constant: our love for them. Being a family means that even when you’re miles apart, you are as close as breathing via the connection and conviction of the heart. Wherever they go, those kids are always part of our lives and living; they may be out of sight, but never out of mind.
It occurs to me that this is the way it should be with our relationship with God as well. The question is, is it?
Talking this past Sunday about the Sunday School teacher of my youth (the local postmaster who was known by all by his nickname “Snigg”) actually brought to mind another of his memorable lessons that still resonates where this question is concerned. He used to speak of people who had “suit coat religions;” that is, those who put their religion on and off every Sunday morning like the suits they wear to church. In other words, faith ends up as something they think about for a hour or two each Sunday, but in the business of life during the rest of the week rarely considered. When God is “out of sight,” so to speak, God is also “out of mind.”
Don’t get me wrong. Those of the “suit coat religion” are generally fine individuals who openly profess faith and are quite often big supporters of the church. The problem is that this is where their relationship with God ends; and truly, just as God is present to us with love and care that extends to every corner of our lives, so our faithful response to God should apply in and through all the varied circumstances of day-to-day life.
To live a life of faith means that even when we are apart from the times and places in which we routinely lift up our praises unto the Lord, the vows of our baptism in Jesus Christ serve as an affirmation that sets the course for our life and living. God in Christ should be on our minds and hearts as we do our jobs, as we go to school, as we take time for recreation and relaxation with our families and friends. God in Christ should be present when decisions are made regarding our schedules, our finances and in the varied ethical and moral dilemmas that inevitably come our way; God in Christ should be a welcomed guide in reaching common consensus, as well as the source for courage and strength when acts of conscience are called for. And God in Christ should be there to help bring to our feeble awareness the incredible joy that exists even in the simplest things of life that are, in fact, gifts of divine grace. In short, in faith, God’s presence and all-encompassing love must never be “out of mind” …or heart.
It will come as no secret to anyone who knows me that our gatherings of shared worship remain one of my favorite parts of our life together as East Church. There is so much that is wonderful about the warmth of our fellowship as we sing and pray and listen to God’s Word together: it is both life-affirming and spiritually uplifting, and I can’t imagine a week without that experience! But that said, our times of worship are never meant to be an end unto themselves, and we must never allow that faith to dissipate as we go out through the doors into the rest of the day and the week ahead. Ultimately, our worship and praise should always serve as a renewal of our faith, a spiritual “jump start” that heightens both our awareness of God’s Spirit in our midst and our commitment to live life – all of life – by the example of Jesus Christ!
Because what’s on our mind and in our heart on any given day might just make all the difference.
c. 2015 Rev. Michael W. Lowry