A few months ago, after we’d gone to hear Eugene Peterson speak, my friend Susan posted her weekly quote from an author she’s been reading and pondering. Since we’d just heard Peterson speak, that week she posted a quote from his book, The Contemplative Pastor.
As I read the words on her blog, I thought of two things at once.
I thought of the domestic church, a phrase coined (I think) by the Catholics to point up the essential role of the family in the spiritual formation of children.
And I thought, Oh dear God, I’m the flipping pastor around here!
For better or for worse, Doug and I are our children’s pastors: we are to shepherd them, caring for their souls as well as their bodies; we are to point them toward Christ; and we are to guide their spiritual growth.
We can only do that if we are caring for our own souls, if we are pointed toward Christ ourselves, if we are growing in hope and faith and love.
Peterson’s words sparked my imagination and my desire. As I read him, my heart cried, yes!
Here are his words, with the word pastor replaced by the word parent, the word others replaced by the words my children:
What does it mean to be a parent? If no one asked me to do anything, what would I do?…
I can be a parent who prays.
I want to cultivate my relationship with God. I want all of life to be intimate – sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously – with the God who made, directs, and loves me. And I want to waken my children to the nature and centrality of prayer.
I want to be a parent… to whom my children can come without hesitation, without wondering if it is appropriate, to get direction in prayer and praying.
I want to do the original work of being in deepening conversation with the God who reveals himself to me and addresses me by name. I don’t want to dispense mimeographed handouts that describe God’s business; I want to witness out of my own experience. I don’t want to live as a parasite on the first-hand spiritual life of others, but to be personally involved with all my senses, tasting and seeing that the Lord is good.
I know it takes time to develop a life of prayer; set-aside, disciplined, deliberate time. It isn’t accomplished on the run, nor by offering prayers from a pulpit or at a hospital bedside. I know I can’t be busy and pray at the same time. I can be active and pray; I can work and pray; but I cannot be busy and pray. I cannot be inwardly rushed, distracted or dispersed.
In order to pray I have to be paying more attention to God than to what people are saying to me; to God than to my clamoring ego. Usually, for that to happen there must be a deliberate withdrawal from the noise of the day, a disciplined detachment from the insatiable self.
His words are my heart’s cry: I want to be a parent who prays, who has first-hand experience of a deepening spiritual life, who tastes and sees that the Lord is good, who gets away from the noise of the day and detaches herself from the demands of the insatiable self.
And as Peterson points out, such a life takes time – and time apart.
So I have decided that 2012 will be my year of prayer. I have been slowly growing in prayer these past years, but I want to grow more. I want to pray more often and more deeply and more intentionally.
I am not altogether sure what such a life would look like, but I’ve already begun to take small steps forward: my prayer window, the Jesus Prayer, gratitude. Now I’d like to take those steps further, and deeper.
It’s one thing to make that resolution. It’s quite another to put feet on it and take the steps. But I want this, which is half the battle. And I want it not just for my own sake, but for my children’s.
They’re looking at me to see how they should live. If I could tell them just one thing, I’d want it to be this: Live prayerfully; live a life rooted and grounded in God.
Saying those words isn’t nearly enough, though. I have to live them.