Christian faith informs us that our children belong to God and are entrusted into our hands for but a season. Parenting, at its best, is a calling from God to love, protect, challenge and gradually release these precious children into adulthood. Parenting requires every resource we have, and then some. From walking the halls at 2 a.m. with a crying infant to staying up past midnight waiting for a tardy teenager, parenting is not for the weak-hearted.
However, for those who have trusted Christ there is a promise that parents do not fill these shoes alone. Jesus himself spoke of God’s ostensibly maternal desire to, “gather children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings…” (Matthew 23:37). He also spoke of God’s patience, which is that of a father waiting for a prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). Our Father is there throughout all the stages of a child’s growth, and many are the resources our Creator provides to help parents accomplish this tremendous task.
My husband and I found a resource of help in the two meetings in which we have held memberships. Both communities were full of hearts and hands drawn together into a family of faith. In each of those congregations our family joined a community whose values and testimonies mirrored those that were important to us. These meetings assisted us to create an environment in which our children could personally experience Christ.
Today our grown daughters own a bookstore in Richmond, Indiana. Last week our younger daughter recounted her experience with a customer who questioned the firmness of the price written on the book. Was it the actual price, he wondered, or could a deal be made. She calmly looked at the man and said, “Sir, we are Quaker. Our word is our bond. What we have written on the book is the price.”
As I reflected upon this story, I couldn’t help but be thankful for the many hands and hearts that have assisted her in speaking boldly the truth of the testimony of integrity and, as a result, helped us as parents to guide her. In her eyes, being a Quaker means that one’s life reflects Christ and his testimonies of simplicity, peace, integrity, community and equality. There is no question about it: one’s life must reflect Christ.
The life of the congregations to which we belonged were and continue to be invaluable assets for our family. Within the arms of the meeting/church, no parent stands alone, no child is without many spiritual aunts, uncles, sisters and brothers. A spiritual congregation helps bear this awesome and exciting responsibility of raising children. By providing an atmosphere of spiritual nurturing that will incline hearts toward Christ, they affirm to support and love every member. Congregational living encourages members, young and old, to grow in faith and to personally experience Christ. I know this, and so do my children. It is for this that I am grateful.
Congregational living, at least in my estimation, includes attending functions, but it is also about accepting the responsibility to nurture and care. Each of us equip and energize everyone within the community to be the best pattern and example of Christ. Within the congregational life of each of these meetings, our children have questioned, wrestled with and experienced faith. They have learned to trust the Spirit of God. They have been immersed in an environment that inclined their hearts toward Christ.
They have learned from the patterns and examples within the congregation what it means to live a Quaker life and they are now helping another generation embrace and experience Christ.
No parent could be prouder and more pleased. I am forever indebted to all of those abundant resources that supported our family. We couldn’t have done our job without them.