Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Milk Teeth

I mentioned before that despite my numerous attempts to the contrary, God protected me, for the most part, throughout my romp down the wide road of destruction. It was a pretty cool road, filled with lots of fun and freedom, until it wasn’t. Freedom is never free, ever. For either road you choose there is a price and you either pay it up front or at the gate and let’s not forget the occasional toll you have to pass, and there’s no service road to turn around on!

When I was ten I woke up early one Sunday morning. There were no cartoons on, this was way before cable, so I was stuck watching “religious” shows (add a bit of a sneer to religious) I was only ten! The few times I’d been to church it was boring and long and if I went to Sunday School I felt stupid because all the other boys and girls knew so much more than I did. But, they had a puppet show and I figured it was the next best thing to cartoons. I wish I could tell you what the name of the show was, but that detail is lost to me. I was sitting next to the fireplace with my feet tucked under my legs with my long nightie tucked in as close as I could get it, it was cold downstairs and the brick still had a bit of heat left in it. I didn’t want to get up and lose the warm spot to change the channel after the puppets were done, even though now it was grown-ups spouting off things I didn’t understand or, frankly, care about. But, I listened anyway. He talked about Jesus and God. It was near the end of the program and he beseeched me, beseeched all the viewers to open their hearts to God and let Jesus fill them with the Holy Spirit.

I had prayed before, a child’s prayer. My mother didn’t like “Now I lay me down to sleep,” she never liked the part “If I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take,” I prayed a simple prayer each night before bed. I thanked God for something and then I said my “God Blesses” list at least that is what I called it. It went something like this: God bless, Mommy. God bless, Daddy. God bless, Katherine (sometimes I skipped Katherine if I was mad at her) God bless, Aunt Sarah. God bless, Uncle Steve. You get the idea; it was basically a roll call of my family and friends. I was a dutiful child and I had gone to church often enough to know that when the minister said, “Pray” you put your head down and prayed. Normally, I put my head down, waited a few seconds and snuck a peak to make sure everyone else way not looking and then I’d look at all the hats that were in the congregation, sometimes I’d count them.

This time there was no one to see me not pray, but I did it anyway. I didn’t just bow my head and think about hats or what was coming on TV next, I prayed and I prayed really really hard. I so wanted the Holy Spirit to come into my heart and fill it with light. I wanted what that man had; I knew he had something I didn’t. He was done with his prayer, but I didn’t feel anything so I gave it one more try – I begged with all of my little body that the Holy Spirit enter me and fill me, but I felt nothing. I got up from my warm cocoon and found something to eat for breakfast. For the longest time, I just thought it didn’t take, boy was I wrong. Of course, this is said in hindsight.

Soon after that, my family and I started going to church on a pretty regular basis, I was raised an Episcopalian. I still counted hats, Easter service was great for that, lots of hats on lots of women I had never seen before and wouldn’t see again until Christmas. My church didn’t actually read or study the Bible; there were two very short readings during the service. I participated in the services, I carried the cross, I lit the candles, and I even read from the Bible to the congregation when the Youth Group did a service. I made our minister angry when I asked hard questions during our Confirmation classes, so I doodled spider webs on my worksheets. To this day, I can draw a pretty cool spider web.

I grew my stunted branches and roots. I seemed to always be searching for that light. I thought I gave up on God, but He never gave up on me. Time and time again he proved he was with me, but I refused to see, I refused to hear and on the few occasions that I did see or did listen, I did turn my back on Him in order to join the many that were cavorting on the wide road. When things got too scary, when they got too bad, I did pray to Him. The light was always with me, I just ignored it because I wasn’t willing to pay the price of committing my life to Jesus – I was still worldly. The wide road was the wild road and a whole lot more fun.

Jesus said you don’t put a light under a bowl in Matt 5:15, He says you put it on a stand so it may give light to all in the house. The other problem with putting it under a bowl is eventually it will go out; you have to feed the flame of faith.

1 Corinthians 3:1 Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly—mere infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. 3 You are still worldly.

It took the church in Corinth awhile to grow up, and apparently they stayed baby Christians for awhile, comforting isn’t it? Yes, we have the Bible and they didn’t, but they had firsthand accounts of Jesus and they had problems growing up! We stumble, we fall and we stagnate in our journey but the Lord provides us milk and our faith keeps burning even though we stubbornly stick it under a bowl when it is inconvenient. But, eventually, we have to cut our teeth and as anyone who has been around a teething baby knows, it hurts!

Here’s an interesting thought, humans cut two sets of teeth. About one in two thousand infants are born with teeth, most get them in four the seven months and a few don’t get their first until they are a year or more. It averages three years for a baby to get a full set of pearly whites. Even after the first ones come in, a baby has to get some of the back ones before a he can really eat solid food and even longer before he can eat meat. The last teeth we get are our wisdom teeth and they can come in as late as age twenty-five. So, Paul is likening the Churches growth to a process that takes a person twenty-five years to complete and causes great discomfort to most people – although some seems to go through it with no problems. Some common symptoms of teething are irritability or fussiness, biting behavior, refusing food and sleep problems. That sounds like my path, what about yours?

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