An Open, Diverse and Beautiful World
Aside from their life-long love affair, which taught me that two very different people could stay passionately in love their whole life long, another quality I admired about my parents was their passion for learning. Some of my friends teased me about the number of books and maps that lined the walls of our house. This was long before Kindle, so our home became sort of a lending library for kids who liked to read.
Every meal, every car trip, every vacation became an adventure to learn more about God’s world. My parents would ask us questions about what we were seeing and thinking as we took tours around our home town, went to the theater together, and participated in athletics.
I especially liked their Friday-night-restaurant phase. It went something like this. The son or daughter who exhibited the best manners at the dinner table during the week was given the choice of which restaurant we would visit as a family on Friday night. With seven kids in the mix, you had to bring your best game on a consistent basis to be chosen.
My parents had one caveat, however. The restaurant couldn’t serve hamburgers, pizzas or tacos. Their goal was to expand our horizons and teach us something new about the different cultures of the world, not to repeat what we had experienced during the rest of the week.
So, from a very early age, my parents not only taught us the difference between a salad and entrée fork, but also how spicy, varied, and delicious the cultures of the world could be. By the time we reached Moroccan food, we thought we had died and gone to heaven. We could sit on the floor and eat with our hands. This was the best game ever!
When I review the above paragraphs, I realize how privileged I was, and still am, to have had parents that treasured the gifts of others, the cultures of others, and the beauty of God’s diverse world. They modeled for us what it looked like to maintain a learning posture. Into their late 70’s, they continued to take classes in zoology, political science, and architecture at their alma mater.
I suppose it is no coincidence, then, that they would choose the Presbyterian Church in which to raise a family. They saw it as a wonderfully nurturing community of faith within which to ask questions of God and with whom to exhibit the kingdom of God to the world. They saw differences in cultures, theology, and even politics as an invitation to learn more about ourselves and about the God we worship and serve.
The freedom to express one’s views and struggle with societal issues in the context of Christian community was greatly appreciated in the 1960’s when I was a child, and I believe it is even more so today. Therefore, I continue to be optimistic that the PC(USA) is fertile soil for Christian discipleship, not because we agree with each other—which we do on most important matters—but because we champion theological rigor and are secure enough in our faith to explore the differences we might have in worldviews, perspectives, and interpretations of scripture. My childhood pastor used to say, “We Presbyterians have a wide bookshelf, and we like it that way!” I’m guessing that his perspective rubbed off on me more than I was aware.
As I consider reaching my children’s generation with the good news of Jesus Christ, I’m grateful to serve in a denomination that meets people where they are, engages them in important questions about life, and acknowledges that we have so much to learn from others. I see our openness and hunger for learning as one of our most appealing qualities. To me, it is a sign of our faith in a sovereign God who wants us to love him with all of our hearts, souls, minds, and strength. To do this in the context of a larger community that holds us as we learn more about God and God’s world, is a treasure too precious for words to express.
We “have a wide bookshelf” indeed, my friends, and we worship a God whose love, grace, and justice invites us to learn more about his will for us and for his creation with each passing day.