Word Magazine December 2000 Page 13


By Khouriye Dr. Diane Ellis Miles

It was about 10:00 PM on a Saturday evening. We were leaving the Hafli with about an hour’s drive home. Father George was walking with us to our car when we heard some young boys on the grassy knoll of the parking lot. They were running around, shouting, and pushing each other. Father George called to them, “OK, boys, that’s enough! It’s time to go back inside.” One of the boys turned away and ran back to play, completely ignoring the adult. Again, Father George called, “Now!” One boy turned and said sarcastically, “No way, Jose!” The words echoed across the knoll and the parking lot.

This incident caused me to reflect on the passage from Proverbs 22:4: “Train up a child in the way he should go and he will not depart from it.” As Christian parents we want to raise our children to be faithful Christians “now and ever and unto ages of ages.” Without our even being conscious of it, we may unintentionally raise our children to value the secular worldview over the Christian worldview and be anything but Christians!

In John’s Gospel (15:16) he brings us the good news of being in union and communion with Christ: “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain that whatever you ask the Father in my name He may give you.” We may apply this to our lives as parents. Christ chose us to be parents for His children. And while we seek to be faithful Christian parents, we find ourselves in conflict with the values of American society. It is a struggle to keep our focus on Christ live in the American society, and confront sinful ways of living when peers, schools, and other institutions are dictating different values. Perhaps you have had to respond to at least one of the following.

* A daughter suggests staying home from school — after staying out late the night before.

* * A son doesn’t want to get up for the 5 AM ice hockey practice — for which the expensive ice time and equipment are paid.

* * A 16-year-old is tired, bruised, and aching from a three-hour football practice of body pummeling and jeering and asks to quit.

* * Schools schedule band practices, dances, and other events at the same time as Vespers, Divine Liturgy, or Feast Day services.

* * A teenager thinks working on Sunday to earn extra spending money is more important than worship and family.

* An adolescent believes he has had enough ‘church’ by the age of 13.

In some respects, America mirrors the culture of the Roman Empire with gladiator sports, social relativism, myths of money, and pagan gods. Every week our children and youth are in schools with 35 or more hours of secular and Satanic values (or another church’s theology). Then, about 15+ hours of sports, computer games, shopping, hanging out, movies, or other diversions occupy “free” time. Are we asking ourselves if these will sustain our children and youth as Orthodox Christians throughout their lives? Will we “preserve, O Lord, the holy Orthodox Church?” Can we imagine someone dying who believes that his soul will be saved by the latest computer game, a WCW wrestling event, or a lottery ticket? If we know that our children need to develop the mind and the body, then why do we so often leave the soul to chance (or — to Satan)?

Nothing in this world is more valuable than the soul. In the Gospel of St. Mark (8:36), he records the Words of Christ. “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” Christ chose us as parents to be courageous as faithful Christians to train our children to listen to (i.e., to obey) God. With the help of the communion of the faithful and our priests, we are to love and equip our children to bring light and life to their souls.

We all need help with raising our children. As Christians seeking to be in harmony with Christ, we begin by examining our own hearts, values, and habits as parents. Are we listening to God? Do our children clearly experience the centrality of the love of Christ in our lives? Do our children know what it means to live a Christian life in the new parlance of “24/7/365.” Do we put our children and youth in situations in which they are nurtured in the Faith and loved by Christ and a communion of saints? Do we believe in the healing power of Christ and the mystery of the Eucharist? If for some reason we are training our children to choose the world’s secular values or another church’s theology, it is time to stop — to repent our Orthodox Christian Faith is rich and powerful. While our heritage may he Lebanese, Russian, Syrian, Greek, English, or another, it is our deep and abiding Faith that binds us together as a communion in the love of Christ.

Is there anything greater or more freeing than to say “YES” to Christ and “NO” to the superficiality of a secular world? Is there any place greater than the Orthodox Church to experience the fullness of life? Let us not be trapped and confused by the tinsel of a materialistic society that emphasizes what we have as more important than who we are and Whose we are. “Train up a child in the way he should go.” Say “No way!” to the values of the secular world and “Yes! “ to union and communion with Christ.

May the grace, mercy, and peace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ be with us all as we seek the courage, wisdom, and guidance to be faithful Orthodox Christian parents.

Khouriye Doctor Diane Ellis Miles is the wife of Father Felix Miles, Pastor of the All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Hingham, MA. They are the parents of two sons, Jonathan Eric and Daniel Keith.

Kh. Dr. Diane is the President of All Saints Academy, an Antiochian Orthodox pre-K through Grade 12 school developing on the South Shore.