When Dave and I first got married, we began the task of building a family and establishing a kind of family culture. From the beginning, we were setting the patterns and habits and ways of doing things that would prevail in this new household. Some of them we inherited (thinkingly or unthinkingly) from my family and some from Dave's; some we adopted from friends and neighbours and the surrounding culture; and some we just made up for ourselves.
And then, when Jacob our first-born came along, the task took on a whole new level of complexity and importance. Not only were we establishing patterns that we ourselves would live by; we were also creating a culture within which our children would be raised, which they would receive from us as a kind of inheritance.*
We talked and deliberated about how we would teach our children about God in the everyday details of our lives; how we would pray and read the Bible with them. We wondered about how we should celebrate the big occasions like Christmas and Easter. (If we didn't do Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny, then what would we do? And would our kids hate us for making their lives miserable?). How would we establish a family that is different because we treasure Christ above all other things?
It was in that context, six months or so after Jacob was born, I first read Noel Piper's book, Treasuring God in Our Traditions, and I immediately fell in love with it!
I loved the framework established in the early chapters, with its big, God-centred vision, its serious purposefulness, and the room that it retained in the midst of that for the quirky, the fun and the everyday. And I loved the fact that so much of the book is made up of material that is unique and particular to the writer’s own family – poems written by her husband John for their children’s birthdays; hymns sung for each child, family recipes... It would be foolish to try to slavishly emulate them all - but I enjoyed the ‘worked example’ they provided of one family’s attempt to create a God-centred, grace-saturated family culture. There were points I disagreed with here and there, but the overall message and the example provided by some of the tiniest details added up to something that has been hugely influential for Dave and me in the way that we have tried to shape the life of our family.
So I'm looking forward to re-reading this book again in October, and I'm hoping that this month will be a good opportunity for each of us to think critically about the traditions we have in our own families. I'm planning on doing 2-3 posts a week and roughly following the order of the chapters. I'll be asking for suggestions, tips, strategies throughout the month, so the more people that join in, the more helpful it will be for each of us!
Next Monday, I'm going to be focusing on chapters 1 and 2 and thinking about what 'tradition' is and why it is important. If you haven't got a copy of the book yet, you can buy it OR download it for free online. (A free book - how good is that!)
* Of course, it's not only married people and parents who have the task of sifting through the traditions that they have inherited from their family of origin and adopted from the surrounding culture, and establishing the patterns and habits that will prevail in their lives and in their households and in the 'household' of the church. And it's not only married people and parents who have the opportunity to pass some of these things to others and leave some sort of legacy and example after them. But (partly because of what my own experience has been, and partly because of the content of the book, and partly because of the important particular role that marriage and parenting play in shaping a culture and passing on the stories of God's greatness) the main focus in my posts will be on how this plays out in a family context. If you're not (yet) married or if you don't (yet) have kids, I hope you'll still find some things that are interesting and useful, and that you'll still feel that you have something to contribute to the conversation!