"Faith of Our Parents" - Nathan Sebens*
The faith of my parents is my faith. There is no avoiding it. Though I have tried to rebel against it, as we all have, it is so clear to me that my faith is truly defined by my experience of my parent’s faith. I am not saying that we necessarily agree on all matters of faith, in fact, we don’t. But my faith is what it is because of what their faith is and has been. I would venture to guess that your faith is the faith of your parents as well, if not entirely, than clearly linked in some way. I found, that for myself, I couldn’t understand my own faith until I understood the things my parents believe. And so, a bit about my parents.
My parents are very different. From personality to preferred diet, they often are on entirely different pages. It is there absolute love for each other which allows them to live in harmony. Their differences do not end when it comes faith. My mother is a Christian, though finds trouble with the baggage that comes with that word today. Her core belief is that Christ came to teach love, and that should be our focus in this world. To love each other unconditionally, rather than to focus on lexicon or dogma. My father’s faith focuses on love as well, however, entirely outside of a Christian worldview. His faith is a beautiful patchwork of wisdom from many faiths, finding strength in truth as opposed to specific faiths. It is the focus on love again that unites them, and that is what they have passed on to me.
My spirituality is inseparably connected to that of my parents. From my mother I received a love of the teachings of Christ. In fact, I attended the Earlham School of Religion to learn more about this carpenter from Galilee. I will forever feel an affinity for what I gained from “growing up Christian.” But from my father, I inherited a healthy restlessness, a desire to never settle when it comes to spiritual matters. To seek after what early Quakers called “continuing revelation”, the idea that God is still speaking. Though this is not how he would define his own faith, it is a gift which he has given me, and for which I am grateful. And so today I am a self-pronounced universalist Christian, not because of some decision I made, though I did make this decision, but because of the faith my parents gave me.
I think that so often, we refrain from speaking to children about faith in fear of impacting the decisions they must make for themselves. I believe that this all too common silence comes from a place of good intentions, but I want to challenge it. In order for the faith of our children to be alive and vibrant, they must discover it themselves. But as adults, we have some maps that we can share with our children. We can tell them of our adventures, and our failures in faith without forcing them to take the same road. They can use our experience as a symbolic compass, a way in which to get their bearings in this realm of things which are greater than this earth. I know that once I began to talk about faith with my parents, my faith was illuminated. Things became clear to me which I had been missing. So young folks, I encourage you to seek out the faith of your elders, to seek guidance. And those of you who have been around a bit longer, tell your stories. If Jesus taught us anything, it is to tell each other stories. This is how we can learn from one another. This is how we can teach our children about our faith, and in turn, about their own.
*Nathan Sebens is a 24 year old in a time of transition. He is currently re-orienting his life in a way that will allow him to pursue his passion for performance. He is moving to Philadelphia this Holiday Season, and is excited for what this new city will hold! Nathan was a student at the Earlham School of Religion from Fall '07 to Spring '09 and is forever grateful for his experience there.