Advice

In his book Crazy Loco Love, Victor Villaseñor writes about a conversation between himself and his father on the eve of his 16th birthday.

We walked across the grass and past the barn and corrals to the big old pepper tree…I’d been playing underneath this tree since I was a child, and I’d helped slaughter and hang and butcher hundreds of steers in its limbs.

“Son,” my dad said to me, “in a few days you will have your own driver’s license and be driving your own car.”

“Truck, papa.  Pickup truck,” I said.

I was excited about the truck I was getting.  It was a 1956 Chevy my dad let me pick it out at the Chevy dealership in downtown Oceanside.  It cost a fortune - $1,300.

“Okay, mijo, a pickup truck,” said my dad to me, “but the point I want to make is this, you are no longer a boy.  You are a man now, and to be un hombre, a man must not only know right from wrong, he must also know who he is and who he isn’t.  Because if a man doesn’t know who he is and who he isn’t, then no matter how much he knows about right and wrong, he will always be like a fish out of water.

…Do you understand?  Am I making sense?”

Suddenly, my gift, the new Chevy pickup – a beaming turquoise – didn’t quite seem as important or exciting to me.  What my dad was telling me was kind of scary…

The more I have thought about this conversation, the more I agree with the advice.

What is it that made Kind David such a great king?  Was it his victory over Goliath?  Possibly.  I suspect that it had more to do with self-awareness.  When he got caught in a sexual affair he owned his mistake – he knew who he was. Then he turned to God – he knew who he wasn’t, and asked God to create in him a new heart.

Or, have you ever wondered what the difference was between Peter and Judas?  Peter denied Jesus three times and Judas betrayed Jesus.  Both men committed friendship suicide.  In the end Judas killed himself and Peter ran back to Jesus at the first opportunity.  Peter knew who he was and who he was not; Judas didn’t have a clue.

Reflection

“Thinking is by far the most frightening and dangerous act any human being can perform.  People would rather die than be forced to think.  A whole nation would rather blow itself to pieces than question its basic values.  Whole groups of religious sects all through history have preferred committing mass suicide rather than face the possibility of error or change.”                 Victor Villasenor, Crazy Loco Love

One of the more challenging tasks I have struggled with as a parent has to do with passing on my Christian faith to my boys.  I would like them to believe like I believe, but I also want them to think for themselves.

Just like my boys, I grew up in a Christian home; it was easy to claim Christianity.  As a matter of fact to not claim Christianity would have been hard work and would have led to unwanted family tension.  When asked, I described myself as a Christian, but for all intents and purposes Christianity wasn’t really my faith.  It was a faith of convenience and peer pressure.  I suspect that my experience is not terribly unique and I wonder how similar my boy’s faith journey is to mine.

The good news, for me anyway, is that my faith journey continued and today I can claim a Christian faith of my own.  The scary part, at least for some, is that the road to making my faith my own began with questioning everything.

From the basic – why do we go to church on Sunday?  To the complex - do those people who preach about the end times even know what they are talking about?   To the uncomfortable – why is the church so judgmental?  Do we really get to determine who is in and who is out?

This process of questioning everything was instrumental in helping me make Christianity my faith.  I do not believe in the same way my parents believed, but that is OK.  I suspect that my boys will not believe the same way I believe and one way or another I will have to be OK with that.