An Ending and a Beginning

Part of the reason that I’m working to prepare my Sunday school lessons instead of just riffing is that I get lost so easily down some rabbit trail. Now, if you’ve had a conversation with me that’s gone longer than, oh, five minutes, this doesn’t surprise you—I have an associative mind, and I’m a spastic thinker. The goal with writing all this stuff down is to have more … ummm, focus.

Today, I finished my series on relationships. Next week, I get my new set of 7th graders, and I only keep one rising 8th grader—probably my most regular attendee. Poor kid, he’s gonna be stuck hearing all my old stories yet again. But as I look back on today, I like how it went. I juxtaposed Proverbs 31:10-31 with Ephesians 5:22-31. We talked through all the anachronistic things in the Old Testament text, and then we distilled it down the key bits in 28-31. Then, shifting to Paul, I said, “Now, the mainstream media loves to lampoon folks who quote from this text, but they always seem to do it with the first part of it, which does sound old-fashioned and outmoded without the context of the remainder of the passage or knowing what Christ’s sacrifice means.” Of course, this is the famous “submission” passage, and in today’s post-feminist culture, that doesn’t sit well with most folks.

I exhorted the kids to consider it in terms of mutual self-sacrifice. I asked them to consider what happens when, in a friendship, one person or the other acts selfishly. What does that provoke within us? “Man, he’s being selfish. I should be, too!” As a result, the friendship typically falters. But in a marriage—which I reminded them was a lifelong commitment between two people that could span decades—I asked them to think of the implications of selfishness. “If a friendship ends, okay, that happens. There wasn’t much commitment there, was there? But marriage is a whole other thing.”

I was terribly uncomfortable in teaching about relationships—I find myself a mediocre friend at best and a horrible mate. I’d argue that every one of my romantic relationships—which, admittedly, don’t number that high—have failed largely because of my selfishness. I felt like a failure talking about these things, but I have great role models. As I told the kids, my folks have been married 38 years; my mom’s folks were married 47 before Papa died, and my dad’s folks were married 64 years before Pops died. That’s nearly 150 years of marriage. I’m quite sure that they haven’t all been easy years—hell, I know that they haven’t been—but they were committed ones. What a great standard they’ve set for Doug and me.

I’ve started a new category, Reading in Reverse, where hopefully I’ll be good about writing about my teaching. [The name comes from the idea that you use a mirror to read backwards-scripted text, and the Bible’s lessons are certainly backwards to our human nature.] I won’t promise to write every week, but I’ll try to write as often as I feel led.

Lastly, an addendum: many of my Presbyterian friends linked to John Piper’s essay on the Minnesota bridge collapse, and I’ve kept silent on that. I know what Piper’s getting at, but I disagree with his worldview. I’m far more aligned with how Greg Boyd views the collapse. But then most of my Presbyterian friends know that I’m a not-so-closeted Open Theist. 😉