Cultural Traditions and the God-Tended Root.
Behind and underneath all this there is a holy, God-planted, God-tended root. If the primary root of the tree is holy, there's bound to be some holy fruit.
~Romans 11, verse 16, The Message
This morning before he left for work, my husband was listening to my sleepy (but earnest) tirade about this coming weekend, and how it's become so commercial and candy-centered (as if my energetic children need more sugar!). Easter is SUCH an off-point holiday these days. Although, this holiday was never established by Jesus the Christ either...so I am not sure why we are surprised that it has devolved to this depth of pitiful pleas for the consumer's pennies disguised by fluffy bunnies and plastic pastel eggs.
I hear or read of valid arguments and opinions regarding overthrowing the traditional American trimmings of Easter (and in December, the same of Christmas) in order to prove a point to our children about the erroneous emphasis our culture has placed on this day that Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. In many cases, I completely see the validity of their ideas. Yet something holds me back from throwing the 6 baskets and 600 plastic eggs hiding in the eaves of our attic for the sake of making a statement, even WITH my instinctive support of the argument in doing so. Throughout this past week as I wiped dirty faces, handed out an elaborate number of all-natural fruit snacks to shutthemupalready!!! and rewashed wet laundry that had been left untouched after the original cycle two days ago...as I went about these things, two forms of reasoning became clearer to me.
You shall know them by their FRUIT -- not baskets, or lack thereof.
We live in a part of the country that is home to a large Amish community. They are,by in large, a peace-loving group of people who believe in varying degrees of separation from the advances of modern society. For hundreds of years, they have dedicated their lives to pleasing God by embracing simplicity and rejecting materialism. In most Amish homes, you be hard pressed to find a telephone anywhere (however you should not be surprised when a cell phone ringing is that of the Amish man shopping at Costco! Ironic, but oh so human).
Throughout my entire life I have been babysat by, befriended by and accepted by many in the Amish community. I admire many of their practices and have asked their advice on gardening, cooking, etc. Even with all that I admire, I have never once been drawn closer to Jesus or been touched by His love based on the practices of this beard-and-bonnet society. Their practices are not "fruits" that point to Christ. They point to tradition.
If my goal in raising my children is to cultivate the soil around their "God-tended root", making them aware of how much they are loved by God, and the fruit that comes from the knowing...I have to think that whether we stuff a basket with peeps one day a year or not, will hold very little weight against how they see their father and I responding to a need on a random Tuesday, or handle a conflict on just another Friday. As a wise man I am privileged to know, wrote : "it is always a challenge to keep the main thing the main thing..." and it is a challenge EVERY day of the year. Not just on one man-made holiday.
It is by our fruit they will know us...not by our conspicuous absence at community easter egg hunts or public proclamations against Christmas giftings. We might be admired for it, and even copied on it...but I am not convinced it would pull anyone closer to Jesus by it.
There is great importance on staying focused on the fruit from our lives, and fruit comes from a strong root system and divine nourishment.
What is a big deal to the parents, is made a big deal to their children. The understanding behind the big deal to the parents may not be understood by the child.
My children will never know the extremes in which some children celebrate Christmas and Easter. There is so much to be sifted through and discarded. There is so much that is not beneficial to the values we hold in our family. So we sift through and keep what we feel is reasonable. What traditions we keep, we are careful to never elevate them more than we do our children's "God-tended roots".
The traditions we keep might have no spiritual value in their origin (Christmas trees, Easter baskets, etc), but our children will not consider it because we do not make a bigger deal of those things than we do the REAL reason why we celebrate the holiday at hand. Sometimes making a big deal out of not doing something makes it a bigger deal than it is...and causes uncertainty when the child see's another family of similar faith participating in what's forbidden in their family. Again, I can completely see a year when we say "Forget it!" to the Easter baskets (well, I take that back. Not as long as my sentimental husband is around!). If we would toss the tradition, I wouldn't want to attach too righteous a tag on it to my children or anyone else. Tradition is only given as much weight as the family gives it.
In whatever cultural traditions we decide to keep for our children, full of whatever worth or folly they might be, it is my prayer that a yearly tradition never eclipses the year-round relationship with Jesus we are cultivating and living out before our children, that they might walk down a similar road when they are older.
Please allow me to emphasize that this is, in no way, is a collection of advice. It is purely a sharing of incomplete thought, which leaves room for improvement and/or correction. In addition, I have great respect for families doing what they can to clear the clutter of cultural distraction from their lives. We are all a work in progress...no one more than our family!