Asleep in the Light

Posted on March 12, 2012


When you point your finger at others, three fingers are pointing back at you.

One observation about life I have discovered is that you can receive inspiration and insight from anyone, anything and at any time; assuming that you are open to it. The challenge for me has been that by the time I am home and can log the insight, I find that the memory of whatever nugget of truth which surfaced during my day is no longer accessible. The memory of what it was has since drifted from my mind, like a vaporous dream quickly dispersing upon awakening. Life it seems is equally capable of providing to us as it is in snatching back the insights from us.

With that awareness in mind, I have taken to carrying a small notepad with me. The goal of which was to record any observations, insights or newfound awareness’s which strikes me throughout my day before life has the opportunity to snatch the awareness from me. On a more practical note, it also has proven helpful in reminding me of the myriad of commitments, milestone deadlines and the occasional milk purchase required on the way home from work.

Yesterday, I had the need to pull out the notebook and record some thoughts at church. For many perhaps that might be a strange place to take actual notes, but I found myself agitated and disturbed and wanted to capture the thought. The sermon itself was honest, well-thought out and a source of encouragement to me. I much appreciated it, but something else was occurring during the service which distracted me. Three rows ahead of me sat a family. Well, mostly they were seated; all but the son. He must have been around eight to ten years of age. Instead of sitting up like his family and the others which had gathered that Sunday morning, he decided that it was appropriate to lay sprawled out across four chairs. He appeared to be attempting to sleep, as at a regular cadence he would shift and turn over.

Now, let us ignore for the moment, the parents sitting next to the boy who apparently condoned this behavior, as hard as that might be to do right now. I found myself thinking, what message is it sending to that boy that he alone of all humanity could recline such? What message was being sent to the speaker? What influence might it have on other children who witnessed this ill-mannered behavior? What was that boy learning that morning at church? I think it strikes at the heart of matter, which is why do any of us get up early on Sunday mornings and attend church in the first place? I wanted to get up, move over to where the boy reclined, push his feet out-of-the-way and sit down next to him and ask him why he goes to church.

Okay, I tried for a paragraph but I can’t ignore the parents any longer. I am sorry but I’m only human – What is wrong with these parents? What life experiences have brought them to this sad state, to be physically present, but mentally (and parentally) absent? It is the curse of this generation that more and more parents are intent upon becoming their children’s BFFs (*best friends forever) than they are to take on the mantle of parenthood; honoring the responsibilities of being their children’s parents first. Why are so many unwilling to commit to being parents calling out and correcting bad behavior and instead chose to opt out of parental responsibilities and act more like older siblings than parents.

Rick Astley would also never judge you for sleeping in church.

I have three children and I know how tempting it can be to just do nothing and tolerate the bad behavior. After all who wants to make a big scene in front of friends, strangers and family, but unless we clearly articulate to our children the expectation of how and why they are to act in the various situation we experience in life, it will only get worse as they get older. The reality is that there are always consequences for cutting corners in child rearing, to the child, the family and to society.

Yes, it can seem easier for the moment to not discipline our children and do nothing, but down the road it will come back to haunt us. I remember my first year as Commander of our Awana Club. Initially I felt that it was overly structured and burdened with a lot of policies and rules but I was young and inexperienced. I did not realize at the time, how crucial it was to the development of children that they have a structured environment with clear boundaries. There was something liberating, even freeing about knowing not only where one was expected to be at any given point in the evening, but also having an equally clear understanding of what you were supposed to be doing at that time. I found it true for the children, as well as for the leaders. The structure, reinforced through discipline, created a remarkably fertile environment for children to have fun, learn and grow.

It was mutually beneficial to all involved, as we were able to spend more time doing things, than trying to get clubbers organized and settled down. The result was we spent more time actually playing games, signing off handbook sections and sharing at council time. The club grew year after year because everyone (leaders and clubbers) were having fun. I believe it all started with creating a clear framework and setting expectation of what each person was responsible for at each segment of club. We exerted energy into our close system (the club) and helped to establish order out the chaos.

All of this ran through my mind as I watched the boy lying down across the chairs. I would not describe the boy as malicious or mean-spirited in any way, if anything the boy was kind of soft, doughy and not physically active at all. He dressed like many of the single mothers that I knew in my twenties, in a t-shirt and sweat pants. Now, I wouldn’t exactly say that I dress up for church but sweats might be a little casual even for me. He’s attending church, but he’s completely oblivious to the message, focused exclusively on trying to be comfortable. Here is a child in desperate need of discipline, structure and physical activity, but offered none of these.

How did it happen? What about the parents? I mean, despite all of the biblical mandates to the contrary, they have chosen to just throw in the towel; unwilling or unable to correct or instruct their child in right behavior. To abandon the often thankless rigors of parenthood, in the face of this boy’s most desperate need for structure, to me is unbelievable.

Okay. I know that I am being incredibly judgmental here and probably taking this way too far. I mean, I am not even aware of the details of their family life and environment. I am clueless to their discipline strategy with the boy or whether or not the boy has a physical defect or injury that prevents him from sitting up straight in a chair. It just strikes me as wrong at some deep level, which I could not prevent myself from writing about. Now, in my defense, I did try to put a spiritual spin on it, at least in my own mind. I thought perhaps the Lord is making me keenly aware of the boy, because he is like a metaphor of where the modern church is today; asleep in the light.

While there is truth in that, perhaps the primary reason for my discomfort is found somewhat deeper still. I have discovered that in my life, the people or situations which most provoke an emotional reaction in me, whether positive or negative, are indicative of areas of opportunities there for me to learn and grow. They are not usually opportunities for me to teach or correct others. I have had to learn this the hard way over time. It may be even more relevant to me that my attention was drawn to the boy because there was something there for me to learn and gain insight into myself. Perhaps, the boy is a representation of my own life? Am I the one caught sleeping in the light; lulled to sleep and unaware of the work that God is doing around me?

Could it be that like Lot’s wife, my feet are moving in the right direction with the right people and even in the right places, but that my heart is somewhere else?

You see, the boy was in church on Sunday, but church was the last thing on his mind, the last thing that he desired. He was focused on satisfying his desire for a couple more minutes of sleep. I have to ask myself, what it is that I desire? My words may say that I desire “X”, but if my lifestyle and choices seem to be indicating that I desire “Y”, then which is the more honest assessment of my heart; my true spiritual condition?

In a spiritual sense, am I the one lying sprawled out across four chairs in church, resting my eyes, while the work of God is going on all around me?