1. Don’t Turn Family Pets into Easter Decorations
For most God-fearing Christians, Easter is the anniversary of Christ being risen from the grave. A day to celebrate victory from death. The stone rolled away! The tomb was empty!
For me, it’s the anniversary of when our cat ran away.
Claren (originally named “Clara” until we found out that “she” was actually a “he”) was an all-white cat we inherited from a family friend. My father, slain in what I can only assume was the Holy Spirit, thought that his fluffy white fur needed to be spiffed up for the day of resurrection.
Before riding to church, clad in our Sunday best, I was greeted by the image of my joyous Dad running after this cat with a thick, round stick of baby blue jumbo chalk screaming, “EASTER KITTY! EASTER KITTY!” It’s a memory burned deeply in the crevices of my childhood.
Try as we may–through many open cans of tuna and apologies–we never did quite resurrect our relationship with Claren that Easter Sunday. The last I saw of Claren was his hind-haunches zipping away as quickly as possible. Blue as a baby blanket.
2. Keep All of Your Books
“Ugh! What’s in these boxes? They’re so heavy!” I complained to my mom.
She and I were organizing boxes from the attic into the moving truck; getting ready for our move to the new house a few miles up the street. There we were, sweating and hunching our shoulders to fit underneath the beams holding up the house. Among the smell of the old, tangy brass of my mom’s trumpet and my dad’s flute. Both instruments were artifacts from my parents’ high school marching band days.
“They’re probably your father’s books,” Mom said, crouching over to get a better view of the half a dozen heavy boxes.
I lifted the top of the box I was holding, uncovering the lid of several dusty books.
“English majors,” Mom said with a smile and a playful roll of her eyes.
Dad had studied English at the University of Virginia. And though the classics lined our shelves in the living room–along with cooking books and historic accounts of the Revolutionary War–there were still boxes and boxes of the lovely words Dad studied in college stored away.
I pushed the tips of my fingers on each of the books, lifting their spines so I could read the titles of each one. If being an English major meant keeping all of your books, I could totally get on board.
Since graduating with my own English degree, I’ve moved three times, and during each move my family makes the same sort of low-grumbles I made that day, complaining about how heavy the boxes always are–the grumbles that sound like the thuds of the covers of books closing.
Their exasperation was heightened when they discovered I had run out of shelf space for them in my tiny-one bedroom place and had begun storing them in my kitchen cabinets.
3. Just Be Still and Know
“It’s time to ‘hollah’ for your challah!” Dad would say to all of us as he burst through the swinging back door. He does this every late Friday afternoon. It was his end-of-the-workweek tradition to bring home a loaf of fresh challah, a bread braided with dried fruit and nuts, from the local Jewish bakery.
Eating this bread with my dad helped me learn about the traditions of the Jewish faith. Not the faith of my family, but a faith which we–as members of the Church Body, members of the Christian faith–all respected and vaguely admired.
I couldn’t quite explain why, but my heart was woven a little into that challah bread. Its influence like yeast running through my veins, causing my curiosity and respect to rise.
This quiet love and admiration wasn’t something that was reserved for challah bread and Friday nights, though.
I would realize that same feeling when Dad would lead our family in preparing our church a day in advance for communion. The first Saturday of the month, each of us would walk slowly into the dim, empty church. Our voices would echo off of the walls and the ceiling that rested two stories high above our heads.
There was a strong temptation to scream, and play loud, caustic pop tunes on the sanctuary’s piano. To use God’s house like a jungle gym. But something–whether it was Mom’s admonition, or perhaps the real, unmistakable presence of the Holy Spirit dwelling in an empty church–always eventually made us very still. Almost to the point of removing my shoes because of the ground I stood on.
Each of us, my brother, sister, Mom, Dad and I, would furrow our brows as we studiously poured grape juice into each of the tiny communion cups. If we made a small splash, we were to take a Q-tip and absorb the extra purple juice so that the plates the elders would pass during the service would be spotless and shiny.
There was always a moment–a small moment–where we would all stand very quietly as Dad meticulously placed each of the silver communion plates on the table near the altar of the church.
His hands were always strong and sure.
They were the same hands that sometimes, for a reason I haven’t yet discovered, covered his face while he was praying during church. I remember being startled by this serious physical showing of prayer, the way he leaned over, resting his elbows on his knees, hands covering his face.
I began to mimic the same attitude of prayer. It seemed like the right thing to do.
And through all of these things–his sense of humor, bringing home challah, loving literature and preparing the church for communion and prayer (though, probably with the exception of the blue-chalk-white-cat incident)–my Dad does with complete and utter reverence.
This is what he has truly taught me.
For the last twenty-four years of my life, I have seen many different sides of the man that loves me and continues to raise me. But always, whether he was presiding as the president of our school’s PTSA, walking me door-to-door on Halloween as Scarecrow accompanying Dorothy, or just showing up to persistent dance, piano or chorus performances, Dad was there with reverence.
His reverence for the small things transcends into his relationship with our Heavenly Father. When he would cover his face during prayer time, I’d peek through one open eye. Wanting to speak to God like he did. Wanting to communicate with Him the same way. Wanting to have reverence for the things in life that truly matter.
Things like faith and being a parent.
Maybe, just maybe, reverence isn’t simply a genetic character trait that you inherit. Like blue eyes or an even skin tone. No, reverence is taught and reverence is learned. And perhaps one day, I’ll be able to share with my future family about the importance of reverence. Just like my Dad did.
Brett Wilson is a Christ-loving, single, curly-haired, left-handed coffee-addict. She is a public relations writer in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Brett lives with her best friend and a Boston Terrier named Regis. You can read more from Brett at her site, www.amanworthwritingfor.com, or on Twitter.