Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Praying with my Parents in Public

My parents have just zipped through town. They decided to snatch up a last minute cruise deal, and since we live near the port of departure, they got the added bonus of spending time with us.

We went out to eat twice yesterday: breakfast at the beach, and lunch at a seafood restaurant. Both times, we held hands and said grace. Out loud.

I'm not sure when this changed. My parents have always bowed their heads and said grace, no matter where we were. Often, they said it silently. I'm not sure when my parents took our private family practice of holding hands during grace public.

I'm certain they're not doing it in hopes of witnessing. They're not those kind of people. I think they simply have their spiritual habits which they're not going to suspend just because they're in public. Happily their spiritual practices shouldn't make people uncomfortable; it's not like they're handling snakes.

Still, we were the only ones praying so visibly. Even though I prayed with them, I'm not so evolved that I didn't wonder what people around us were thinking. I didn't particularly care, I just wondered from a sociological point of view.

Let me stress that in my younger years, I'd have been mortified. I might have even accused my parents of hypocrisy. How would I have justified that charge? I don't know, but I do remember it being my favorite accusation of Christians.

I remember watching Chariots of Fire and being deeply unhappy with the ending, where both runners won their races. I accused the moviemakers of being hypocritical sellouts. My parents asked how that was possible, since the movie was based on a true story and that's the way it really turned out. I didn't have an answer for that, and I didn't care. I wanted that Christian character punished for sticking to his faith. I thought he was unreasonable, not principled.

Ah, the irrationality of youth. Little did I know at the time that the character was horribly punished, as he was a missionary in the wrong place at the wrong time in World War II, and he spent some brutal years in a labor camp. My adolescent self would have been glad. She'd have said, "Well, he shouldn't have been inflicting his religion on those native people. Serves them right."

My adolescent self was harsh and judgmental, and I'm not sorry to have shed most of her ideas. Now I can gracefully take my parents' hands and be glad that they have their faculties together, that they remember what's important to them and that they practice it freely.

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