I’m a devoted father, and my wife, Monique is a devoted mother. When we first got into this parenting gig, we were tempted to believe that all a child needed was a stable, loving two-parent household in order to thrive. Over the years we’ve come to realize that raising healthy, well-adjusted children requires far more than any one or two people could ever give them. We have needed grandparents, uncles and aunts, friends and neighbors. I am thankful to the counselors, teachers, teacher’s assistants, administrators, custodians and cafeteria workers. We’ve needed friends, neighbors and even the kindness of strangers to make it through this decade and a half of parenting. I’m particularly grateful to other parents including Author Brown who made my son feel cool in 4th and 5th grade for being a prolific reader. For LaShanna Moore, who has taken the time to listen and talk to Julia when I was all talked out. The African Proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child,” has proven itself to be true in our experience. The ongoing question for us is how can we be intentional in creating that village?
So being a pastor, I’m given to search for spiritual insights in answer to both practical and existential questions. I began searching scriptures in search of something that could be helpful. At last I came across an obscure reference in the book of Nehemiah. For those not up on old Nehemiah, it is a book centered on the efforts to rebuild the Jewish homeland after their return from exile. After many years of hard work in dangerous circumstances the walls of Jerusalem were ready to be dedicated in a big religious and civic celebration. Chapter 12 drops the detail on us that in gathering the musicians for the dedication, they had to be called from villages around Jerusalem that they the musicians had built for themselves.
Why is this detail important? Musicians play a vital role in worship and celebration. In church speak, they usher us into the presence of God. In academic language, they open us up to a luminal state of being where we become cognizant of the Divine presence. In plain language, music touches the heart and mind. Yet in order for the musicians to perform this function they found it necessary to center their lives in community with other musicians even while being a vital part of the larger community. Even while rebuilding the walls, replanting the crops, even while relearning the land of their ancestors they cut out their own sub space.
This is an important reflection. As parents the best we can do is to help usher children into a luminous adulthood. Most readers of this sort of blog are the sort of people who no doubt spend a great deal of time and energy rebuilding the portion of the wall nearest you – making a difference in larger society. We are just so busy just as the musicians no doubt were. Yet we learn from their example that it is important for us to carve out time for ourselves and our families. The goal in this case not more alone time with our individual family unit, but rather in finding fellowship with other parents and their children. To take time for your own sub community within the larger society. To love and encourage their children as if they are your own, and for them to do the same for yours. No one or two or three voices alone are enough to sing the chorus that will touch the hearts and minds of our children or lead them to the luminal spaces where they will experience the fullness of being as adult members of our community. The McMillons by themselves can’t do that for their kids. Nor can the Browns or the Moores. But together our village just might blend enough harmonious voices together for the celebration.