Lessons from Sons and Daughters

Lessons from Sons and Daughters May 20, 2012

Jesus is a person, not merely an idea. He is also the Divine Word, a Way, and following that “logos” wherever He leads means never resting.

Orthodoxy is merely a gate to further wondering as He refuses to let even the truth become a cage for his children. Every truth constrains, but the way a door in a wall constrains. I wall through it and find more to experience on the other side.

A simple implication of these truths is that a Christian can and should learn from everybody. Our enemies are to be loved and this means they must be understood. You cannot claim to love a man you refuse to know and you cannot know him if you will not understand him sympathetically. My experience says, however, is sometimes easier to learn from our enemies than our family, particularly our children.

Our enemies force us to an act of loving concentration by being our enemies. Our family, especially if they are loving, can receive from us the unintentional hatred of ignoring their thoughts. Our children change, they grow up, but noticing this can be difficult especially since it marks our growing old.

As my second son graduates from high school tomorrow, I am reminded of how much I have learned from all my children.

Lewis Dayton, the eldest, is a gentle soul. He has taught me so often that my ideas must account for lived experience. He thinks deeply, but never for the sake of mere abstraction. He has taught me that battering a person with ideas can be as bad as battering them with fists.

I love learning from Lewis.

Mary Kathryn, the second, is effervescent soul. She experiences physical pain, but often manages wit and joy in the middle of it. Mary Kate never denies what is happening to her, but finds a way forward. She reminds me of Odysseus, because she is a woman of many ways. Her piety is full of sentiment without even a touch of sentimentality.

I love learning from Mary Kate.

Edmund Saint-John was born into Paradise. I only held him once, but when I pray for all the children I always pray for him. Over the years, his soul, resting in peace, has reminded me of where I am going. I will be as he is, but only if I am washed as he was washed.

I love learning from Edmund.

Jane Victoria Anastasia, the youngest, is a creator. She is never without a pen and some paper and words flow out of her. She reminds me of how much time I waste consuming, when I could be creating. She also has shown me the potential of new tools to allow us to create in a community. Her art is a shared experience and not isolated to notebooks as my childhood ramblings (so deficient by comparison!) were.

I love learning from Jane.

And finally the graduate Ian Christopher Alban comes to mind. Ian has taught me to be more direct. Ian says what he thinks, not out of cruelty, but out of charity. He is a loyal friend as well. As he graduates high school, he is plainly moved from being a lad to a man, a rare enough accomplishment. Once when complaining how unfair a sibling was being to me, Ian gently said: “Well, she is fourteen and you are forty-eight.” He was right, but with a rare concision and charity of tone.

I love learning from Ian.

There are a few students who have become spiritual children, but I fear being presumptuous in naming them. They have taught me poetry, virtue, and hope in pain.

I love learning from these spiritual sons and daughters.

Jesus is so glorious that He must hide so that we can grow. If He simply came, we would only worship. He appears to us in humanity so that we can wrestle, debate, grow and then see Him when we break bread together. When I learn from my children, I learn from Him.

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