Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
I went to a college with a very strict moral code. You had to sign a contract agreeing to many things including abstaining from sex unless you were married. One of my roommates, one of the kindest people I have ever met, was always involved in sexual experiences at our college. She would wake me and tell me about her dates when she came home. It was such a great lesson to me. I was never tempted or desired to do such things so I didn’t , but it was easy for me. She had such a deep desire for these things and often did them. It made me realize how withholding judgment of others is so important because we are all so different. We don’t start even with anything. I think also about people who are so driven to eat all the time and are overweight. I am hardly ever hungry and am thin but what is difficult for some is easy for me. Some people who grow up in loving families are so gentle and kind and some who grow up in abusive families are abusive. How can we judge the behavior of one who has been taught kindness with one who has not? Some people live in healthy bodies and do so much in life. Others fight pain and disease and despair and contribute less to society. May we live humbly with respect toward all. We don’t start anything from the same place.
Been reflecting on your words and want to give you my thoughts on what you have written.
Late last week I sat down in front of TV and turned on a programme that was talking about how this community group was supporting very disfunctional families in sticking together. Having just spent several hours working on a SOVA case (safeguarding a vulnerable adult) which might well result in removal of a learning disabled adult from his family for reasons of health, my initial reaction was of irritation. However a small still voice said "Jesus would have sat down and shared a meal with these people - they are the tax collectors, the prostitutes and the pig-herders."
I am in a long-distance relationship with a fellow Quaker, and we are both certain on our discernment that we are meant to be a committed couple. We are also both old and wise(!) enough to know that we are happy expressing our love for each other in all forms.
In July, it will be the first time he and I are going to spend time together, with his daughters from his previous marriage aged 14 and11. We have been seeking discernment on how best to conduct our relationship in the presence of his beloved girls, and have realised that it would be a mixed message to say "Don't have sex with someone unless you are absolutely sure of your commitment and know them very well", yet be seen to be lovers by his girls, when they have not spent significant time with me before. So it is family rooms and best behaviour for the both of us! Kind of a turn up for the books for two people from the liberal end of the tradition eh?
Helen, I hope you have a wonderful time with your partner and his daughters. And good for you for putting the developmental and spiritual needs of the girls first.
I struggle with how I am going to approach discussions of personal morality with my children when they are older and ask about my own past. I picture myself being very together and finding that balance between maintaining my own privacy, telling them the truth, and most of all being successful in helping them build that moral core for themselves. In my imagination, it all goes fabulously!
I veer between very excited and very scared about spending time with his daughters. Because our relationship is long distance, a lot of it is conducted on the phone and we have been including the girls in conversations if they have wanted to share time with us. I'm an auntie multiple times over and I hope that will give me some grounding.
Speaking of being an auntie, my eldest sister as a teen did everything we are afraid of teens doing, so she approached the teen years with her children with a certain degree of anxiety. Turns out the nieces and nephew had picked up from family jokes that my sister had been a bit of a wild child, and were quite matter of fact about it. They were much more peturbed by their father's very straight teen years, and him becoming the school guidance counsellor at their school...
My eldest niece (other sister's child) is now in her mid 20s and we had a wonderful conversation not long ago, when she recalled a couple of conversations we had in her childhood and early teen years which were very influential to her thinking as an adult.
Firstly, when her parents were going through a tough patch when she was 8 years old, she once said to me "I don't like it when my parents yell at each other." I can remember giving her a snuggle (we were sitting in the long grass together) and saying "You know, the funny thing about your parents is they really do love each other, but being silly adults they sometimes don't think the other is listening, so they get louder and louder, thinking that this will help them hear each other better." I can remember her little body at the time relaxing into the cuddle. She said it gave her a completely different perspective on her parents behaviour at that time, and helped her realise it was nothing to do with her.
Secondly, we had been walking back to the car in the city after a movie and ended up walking past a sex shop, which had some pretty grotesque lingere in the window. She and her little sister were whispering between them and I kind of knew I was going to get a question about it. Anyway, the question was "Do boys like you to dress in those things?" I said that some men did, and some women even enjoyed wearing that kind of thing, but no one should ever do things like that with anyone if they felt unsafe or uncomfortable. My niece told me that those words got her out of a relationship that was heading towards manipulative and abusive, because she realised that if she was feeling unsafe, then it was not OK.
So I think no matter how much we prepare, we don't know which lessons will make the most impact.
These examples are lovely, Helen, thank you!
Children are wonderful teachers, too, I need to remember that. I have a son who is a bit of a challenge for me, and he knows that I struggle with how to best mother him (because I tell him), so if something isn't working (is not teaching him, is not helping him grow) he'll let me know. And I try something different, and it's a better fit.
Thank you, Kathy, I hope so. Compassion is key, I learn this more and more as I get older. And a big fat dose of humility really helps, too.