My wife and I raised our boys on books, humor and the tenets of taekwon-do. It’s an admittedly odd combination which, I suppose, they will be discussing with therapists well into middle age. But now as adults they all can think and discern, laugh joyfully in the face of life’s trials, and stay centered and focused even as the rolling waves of life’s storms crash over their gunwales.
In our home, we believed firmly in Cicero’s famous observation that a room without books is like a body without a soul. Reading, learning, discovering and imagining are among the most divine of all human experiences. The very idea that one person (the writer) can take thoughts and abstractions in his own head and encrypt them into scribbles on a page, which another person (the reader) can decipher so as to bring those same thoughts and abstractions into her own mind – why it’s God-like. Just pause for a moment and ponder the gospels. In a faraway place two thousand years ago, a sandal-wearing man named Jesus did a few story-worthy things and peppered them with noteworthy insights. People observed and heard. Eventually someone scribbled them onto a page. Now, here we are, one hundred generations later reading words that have been translated across time, culture and languages, and we are able to be touched personally by the mind of Jesus. It’s a miracle!
So we raised our boys on books. I don’t think there has ever been a spot in our house where you could sit and not have a book within view, ready to be picked up, devoured and shared. We also raised them on humor. Laughter, we’ve always believed, is the language of the angels. It heralds joy to and from hearts and minds created in God’s own image. Show me a church in which the community doesn’t laugh, and I’ll show you religion without spirit. To truly enter into the spiritual flow in our home required a deep appreciation for Calvin & Hobbs, a wry and ironic wit, and a strong capacity for self-deprecation. Unless you can laugh at yourself, you really can’t laugh at all.
The third element of our child-rearing trinity was the tenets of taekwon-do, which are courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control, and an indomitable spirit. These are the elements of character that my wife and I believed could partner with a well-formed mind and a joyful heart to help our boys become strong, confident and compassionate men. Of course, it wasn’t enough for them to be taught, memorized and practiced on Saturdays in the dojang. They needed to be a way of life. We spoke of them often and reminded each other of them regularly.
So, you may be wondering…books, humor, taekwon-do, where was faith in all this? Where was our Christianity? The short answer: everywhere. Over it. Through it. Within it. The Christian spirituality with which we raised our family is not something you do like read a book, or a way of responding to the world like humor, or even an approach to character like the tenets of taekwon-do. As long as you see the heart of Christ as something that exists outside of yourself, you will never enter into it because it never enters into you.
Christian spirituality, at least the way we hopefully taught it to our boys, is the air you breathe, the light that warms you, and the love that engulfs and connects you. You infuse it into the books you read, the laughter you share, and the character you develop. When lived well, Christianity is not something you merely encounter or practice; it is who you are.
Journey well and pray always.