This post is part of a series called The Cure of Souls: A Spirituality of Care and Compassion
written by Kate Wiebe. Look for her posts twice a month, and a list of them here.
(Continued from yesterday.)
When reading current president of Anabaptist Mennonite Bible Seminary Shenk’s words, it can be easy to forget that Why Not Celebrate was first published over thirty years ago. Her writing correlates easily with present-day strains of time management, over-scheduling, feelings of inadequacy, and longings for healthy models. Reading these pages may make one wonder whether much has changed for families striving to live faithfully, yet, more so, it demonstrates how time-tested these basic and easy-to-do practices can be for creating homes that are life-giving.
The abundance of examples offered in this book – ecumenical and easily accessible – help provide structure for a family life. Shenk warns, “Frameworks that no longer serve a vital purpose must be dismantled. But the solution to meaningless structure need not be a regression to chaos,” or reactive movements to alternative meaningless practices. “Bringing order out of disorder or design out of chaos is the creative task of . . . the parent.” This kind of calling “is to fashion a rhythm of meaningful activity so that a child can know safety and true freedom.”
However, too often, Shenk observes, “A lack of imagination characterizes many of our family worship activities. We forget why we’re doing what we’re doing.”
By reminding ourselves that “human beings are a unity of mind, body, and spirit,” and that “we need colors, candles, embraces, dances and drama to fill out our picture of truth,” parents and caregivers are inspired to create simple traditions that are rich in meaning. These practices counter the predicament of seemingly meaningless daily living. They are forms of agreed-upon play that provide ways “to harmonize our movements with their meaning . . . [and our] senses are the vehicles through which the Spirit of God enters into our constricted thought to make space for grace.”
Shenk explains: “Concrete symbols and ritual play connect us somehow with the eternal, the incomprehensible.” They are especially appropriate for children because “they make tangible for children what is intangible.” They convey simple and elemental meanings “that can growth with us as we grow in our ability to comprehend.” Rather than taking provision for granted, “when we celebrate the goodness of the gift we increase the possibility that the realm of goodness will be enlarged. When we cultivate a spirit of thankfulness, we find God . . . around us.”
In our lives that too often feel harried, it is important that we “slow down enough to preserve time for worship, to make space for grace.” If you are looking for ways to inspire your family to grow in peace, nurture, and resilience, I recommend finding a book like Why Not Celebrate to find examples of how to simply and easily begin incorporating healthy practices into daily routines. As Shenk writes, “It is specific acts of kindness and courtesy sprinkled throughout the day that make all the difference between a family that slowly disintegrates and a family that, against all odds, grows in harmony.”