Sunday, March 19, 2023
For context, my second daughter, Azalea is a few days old, and my first daughter, Juniper is 14 months.
The faith of my daughters will not be my own faith. It can’t be. I was born into a family and a social environment that did its best to hand off an understanding of Christianity that shaped how one lives and ultimately where one “goes to spend eternal life.” Allegiance to a set of specific, yet usefully vague and abstract, prescribed beliefs was one of the key vehicles for the handing off of this form of Christianity.
After some time, in my mid-twenties, a seed of skepticism began to open and to take root. The little doubt seedling grew and grew, sprouting branches and finding its nutrients in the very soil it was upsetting by its presence. Eventually, this skeptical tree had grown so large that if you stood under its towering trunk and its expansive canopy, you would find that it overshadowed much of the surrounding vegetation that was native to my spiritual topsoil.
For a while, I believed and acted like the presence and the enormity of this doubt and skepticism had disqualified and discounted all that had come before. But, as is often the case, stepping back provides a larger perspective. The more historical distance I find between the sprouting of that seed, its subsequent dominance, and my ever-increasing perspective and perception, the more the doubt tree looks like a big tree in a forest of other trees, some of them big too.
This all goes to say that the spiritual inheritance my daughters will receive looks much different than what their father received. However, much of the rich vitality that comes with living and dying, and the composting of spiritual goods, will remain the same.
I inherited a tradition that told sacred stories to orient and instruct. We sang, we danced, we ate, we prayed, we longed for a world where the hungry are fed and all creatures are met with care. We considered ourselves the heirs of a religious vision centered on love, non-violence, self-giving, humility, grace, forgiveness, and in effect, justice.
There were a number of dogmatic, rigid beliefs that ossified around this religious vision—often presented as the religious vision itself—that the doubt tree uprooted with its growing presence. I’m grateful for the skeptical seed that grew itself up in my spiritual soil. I’m grateful also for the distance of time in that it gives me the ability to see the beauty of the other trees growing in that same soil.
My hope is that the spiritual seeds that find root in my daughters’ hearts are similar to mine in many ways. I intend that we will sing, we will dance, we will eat, we will pray. We will long for a world where the hungry are fed all creatures are met with care. I pray their spiritual vision is centered on love, non-violence, self-giving, humility, grace, forgiveness, and in effect, justice.
The faith of my daughters will not be my faith. It can’t be. It must be something new, born from the old, and transformed by their specific experience, context, and agency. May what I call Spirit breathe hope, courage, compassion, beauty, and joy into their young hearts.
I love you, Juniper Rose and Azalea Mae.