Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Why I (Still) Like Christians- my parents!

Is it obnoxious to write about your great parents?  Kind of like the parents who speak a little too highly of their children?  Well, I'll try to keep it light and not gush.  But if I'm writing about people who've influenced my faith, I have to start with my mom and dad.  They're the first Christians I knew.  And, if it is true that your image of God is cultivated in the first few years of your life, then they have a lot to do with my perception of God the Father.

It's difficult to sum up 32 years of observing someone's faith.  So I'll stick to the first things that come to mind.

I love my parents because they don't take themselves, or anything, too seriously.  Did I grow up in a legalistic home?  Some may perceive that I did, but I disagree.  We were pretty conservative- we went to church A LOT.   I had to fight hard to go to dances or watch certain movies.  My parents always voted Republican, they didn't drink (in front of us).  But I don't think of our home as legalistic because of how lightly they took those issues.  They didn't make the rules the point, and they were really open-minded about different opinions.  My three brothers and I have all grown up to break the rules in one way or another . . . we're all completely different, with wildly different (strong) opinions and beliefs.  Our family gatherings are loud with heated debated, but rather than being tense, it is hilarious.  I never laugh harder than when my family is arguing about money, religion, and politics . . . I suppose we have learned from my parents not to take ourselves too seriously, either.

My parents sincerely want to obey God, which means that they have always been open to examining themselves and changing their mind and admitting where they were wrong.  They still vote Republican, but there are things they like about the Democrats.  We have wine with dinner.  Rather than going to church on Wednesday nights, my parents invite us to dollar burger night at the Tavern on Wednesdays.

So if the Rules weren't the point, what do they take seriously?  My parents genuinely, really really like people.  I don't remember them being critical or holding grudges or saying that they didn't like someone.  We didn't sit around and criticize people for fun, or try to judge other people's motives.  They loved having people around, anyone was welcome in our home.  Not that they were perfect, of course.  They experienced hurtful relationships and frustrating people, and they talked about it, but they didn't dwell on it, and they were quick to let it go.  They place a lot of value on their friendships.  I don't think my parents ever consciously tried to teach us this, be we have all grown up respecting people and attempting to see the good in them.

There was a lot of grace in our home.  It took a while to get into trouble, and forgiveness came quickly.

We laughed a lot.

Their marriage, and faith, was really resilient.  I watched them go through difficult times, heal, grow, and become stronger. 

My parents were generous.  My dad owned his own business, and there were a lot of lean years when he wondered about paying the bills.  But even when finances were tight, even when they couldn't afford extra things, I always, always saw them writing checks to missionaries, giving to the church, giving here and there as they saw needs.  I know they wouldn't want me declaring that to the whole world . . . sorry!

They take work and fun seriously, too.  They believe in hard work, but believing that God gives us all things richly to enjoy, they don't feel a bit guilty about taking time for fun either. 

My parents are both optimistic, positive, and deeply grateful people.  Here's an example:  my dad has spent the past several years trying to cultivate a small grove of fruit trees.  This summer he told us how a couple of the trees had died, and the rest had yet to bear any fruit- except one.  One tree that year produced one tiny apple.  And it was a good apple!  He said, triumphantly.  This sums up my dad perfectly.

There are many other things I could say here, but these are the first that come to mind.  From my parents, I have an image of a God who is much bigger than our simple rules and opinions.  God, to me, isn't even all that concerned with the rules, but rather with my heart and how I treat my neighbor.  Thanks to my parents, I know a gracious, generous God, a laughing God who sits at your table and discusses things with you rather than shouting at you from the sky.  The God I know satisfies you with fulfilling work to do, and is pleased when we take time to enjoy life too.

Thanks, Mom and Dad, for being this kind of example to me of genuine faith.  How could I help but follow a God like the one you have shown me?

(This is the first post in a series of Why I (still) Like Christians, based on this post).


charrette said...

It sounds like we were raised by the same parents (minus the drinking). :)

Seriously, growing up knowing and loving a God who was first and foremost Father, Creator, Protector and Friend (as taught by example through my parents) truly shaped my spiritual life.

No wonder I feel such a kinship to you.

LMShunk said...

You're so great Jess! Definitely still my favorite teacher. :-)

Loved this post!

Anonymous said...

jess, this is awesome. from the little i know your parents, they are awesome people...and not because of them but because of God's grace to them and through them...that is exactly what came off of them everytime we got to spend any time with them. i will never forget the way they welcomed us so wholeheartedly and yet without making us feel awkward at sami's first bday party. i hope matt and i can grow up like them! :) luv you guys!

Jessica said...

Now for the truth about Jess' parents. I'm the son-in-law (Jess' husband for those bad at logic) and...well...uh...to be honest...if I had written this blog, i would not have changed a thing! Ed and Lonnie are the best in-laws ever. I had great parents too and Ed and Lonnie have complemented my definition of family so much so that I wish they had more kids so more in-laws could be blessed in the same way. Thanks Ed and Lonnie!