Some years ago, I read an article that claimed that the job of our children was to push our buttons and leave us, that only by leaning, or shoving, up against limits do they learn what is right and wrong, what or who they can be. Childhood and youth are times for experiment, for trying new things and ways of being. Parenting becomes a process of setting new limits further and further out for our children to test. It isn’t easy either being a parent or a child.
I think this is exactly right, and it says that we grow into who we are. We are constantly saying goodbye to what was and saying hello to what is becoming. Obviously we carry things with us; no one of us is a completely new creation; we look back and look forward. But looking forward is the more important.
I remembered that article listening to our 8th graders in the Rites of Passage Service last Sunday. It is always one of my favorite worship services, and not just because I get to sit down with every one and listen. I come away with renewed confidence in the future and am always impressed by the thoughtfulness of our youth, the combination of youthfulness and maturing, the value of having a faith community that challenges the young and urges them to come to their own understanding of faith and the sacred. I grew up being told what is true; our kids grow up discovering what is true. It is a better way.
And then they will leave that and move on. Saying goodbye and hello over and over again. We say goodbye to Christina Shu this Sunday and say hello to a second year with Peter Farriday. Christina says goodbye to Neighborhood and hello to a new and deeper understanding of ministry. I am saying my own goodbyes and hellos and I look forward to my last year and a half in ministry and say hello to a new time in my life.
So, maybe, pushing limits and experimenting never ends. It is just that we become our own parent, or friends and partners and communities play that role. But here is the key: we do not do this isolated. Our children do it in our families and in their RE classes; they do it in the Rites of Passage class; they do it in this beloved community. We are tied together whether we like it or not; we are who we are, as Christina reminded us in her last sermon, because of others; we become human because of other human, saying goodbye and hello, over and over.