Sunday, August 30, 2015

On Character and Union

A little over a year ago I took my son, Isaiah, to an event on campus.
If I remember correctly, we arrived a few minutes after the scheduled start time; things were still getting set up.
We stood in line at a table providing crushed ice and cotton candy; the cotton candy machine wasn’t fully warmed up and ready.
Cotton Candy

Isaiah chose the cotton candy over the shaved ice so we waited.
We were in a line that wasn’t open yet, and we were at the end of that line, so we waited.
We saw people coming to the shaved ice line, getting their refreshment, and going along their way.
And still we waited.

This was only about four minutes but to Isaiah it was painfully long.

My son, then six years old said, “Papa, why is it so hard to wait?”

It was such a profound question. It was also a teachable moment.

I responded,
“Because, son, you haven’t had much practice waiting. I’ve waited for a lot of things in my life, so I’ve gotten better at it. Mama and Papa waited for you for a long time and now we’re waiting for Enoch. Those waitings were really hard, but it made us a little more able to handle the little waitings.”


Character is cultivated this way.
We work on the small things and then the larger things and then we become mature humans.

We finish a family game of monopoly over a couple of days in our youth and then when we’re in college we finish a thesis.
(and maybe even post a blog on a somewhat-weekly basis)

We help mom put away the dishes when we’re seven and then we can maintain a clean, organized house.

We choose to be honest when we’re young because our dad says it’ll be worse if we lie and then we have integrity when faced with a difficult choice in the workplace.

We learn to care for a younger sibling or the family pet and then, when we’re able, we give help to the poor and disenfranchised in society.

We learn to respect our parents and then when we’re older we respect everybody.

We shake hands whether we win or lose the little league game and then we remain decent to work with whether or not we receive the promotion.

I have a long way to go cultivating my own character, but I hope I am helping my son begin to build his.

Isaiah had to wait for cotton candy when he was six. As I write this, he’s almost eight.
Maybe he’s a little better at waiting.

From Character to Union

Character is important.
It helps us function in society, makes us good citizens.
It helps us maintain good relationships, makes us pleasant, tolerable, humans.

However, the Christian life is not, at its core, about character formation.
The Christian life is about union with Christ.  
Character is not the same thing as union.

It’s a bit harder to teach union than character.
As a parent, I hope I do both.

When Isaiah is impatient I hope he can realize he needs to develop his patience.
He needs to practice waiting.
But I also pray that he can bring his impatience to the cross of Christ.

I pray he can approach the thrown of his Heavenly Father and with his inadequacy.
I pray that he will sit with God in his pride and anger and envy and realize he needs a savior.
I pray that he will strive for good character, and bring the futility of his striving before God.
I pray that he will know earthly success, and heavenly futility, of character formation.

…and I hope I don’t forget this as well.

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