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Editors are nothing like moms

The world doesn’t need more scorekeepers. It needs more Christians to bear witness to beauty and to love. To choose justice and compassion over nitpicking. To extend grace at every age, to all ages, just as ceaselessly as God does for all of us.

Editors are nothing like moms

Patricia and Alana Raybon share their story in Calvin College's chapel April 15.

Four likes borders. Four’s life may depend on them: “Don’t cross the road without me.” Four is happiest right next to someone who loves him.

Eight likes hairsplitting. Eight’s keen sense of justice makes her litigious. “I know it’s not your turn, but set the table anyway.” Eight takes everything literally.

Ten likes debate too, but Ten can read between the lines. Ten sees a moral coming a mile away. I’ve had great conversations with Ten about common grace and a song called “S.O.B.”

You’ve probably already figured out that I’m not the world’s most observant or organized mom. Mornings are a scramble to sign homework, find clean socks, wash yesterday’s lunch containers and look for missing library books. Half the time I forget what grades the kids are in.

I have learned one important thing about parenting, though – that rules are not one-size-fits-all. Wouldn’t it be easier the other way? Wouldn’t it be great if one set of directions worked for all kids all the time? I would just love to write that manual.

Except, then the publisher would have to call it Raising Pharisees. Life isn’t straightforward. It’s in flux and plagued by nuance. Rules that keep a four-year-old safe are superfluous by age ten. The advice an eight-year-old needs should be second nature by the time she’s 15. Good parenting, as my sister likes to say, is working yourself out of a job. Loving enough to eventually let go.

Overemphasis on following the rules leads to legalistic adults, unable to parse out what’s essential from everything else. Jesus calls them nitpickers or worse, tithing carefully “on every nickel and dime” but neglecting justice, compassion and commitment (Matt. 23:23, The Message).

Cling loosely
Maybe because I was thinking about the seasons of life, one of the most moving presentations for me at Calvin College’s Festival of Faith and Writing last month was an interview with Patricia and Alana Raybon. They co-wrote a book called Undivided: A Muslim Daughter, Her Christian Mother, Their Path to Peace, which Sonya Vanderveen Feddema reviewed in CC March 14, 2016. Alana was raised in the African Methodist Episcopal church; she converted to Islam 10 years ago. 

“Have you accepted that your daughter is a Muslim?” someone asked Patricia.

“No,” she said.

Her smile was bright with tears.

“God may yet work.” Later, she reiterated that she does not respect her daughter’s choice but she does respect her ability to choose. It sounds like a very painful decade, as both women slowly let go – first of anger, then blame, then the need to prove that “I am right.”

The challenges of parenting young kids pale in comparison to this particular relationship at Thirty-Five. “It’s a choice every day to get along with the people God has put in your life,” Patricia said. “The world needs more Christians to let things go,” to bear witness instead to beauty and to love. “If we focus on fighting, I miss all the beauty in the world.”

Sola gratia
This conference and a slew of recent letters to the Editor are all helpful in making me consider, again, Christian Courier’s reason for being. Newsflash: it’s not to keep you safe.

It’s not to confirm what you already know.

It’s not to deliver a moral. Being an editor is nothing like being a mom.

Instead, I hope Christian Courier helps the Christian community think through big issues. I hope it helps promote growth through discussion. My own interpretation is limited, and I become a better person by trying to understand what others are saying. At the Festival, someone called that a hermeneutic of love. James K.A. Smith calls it the gift of the Reformed tradition, to “wrestle creatively with the challenges of the day.”

Have we printed an article that you can’t stand? Just sit with that for a moment. Sit a little longer. Be inspired by Patricia Raybon, who slowly, slowly let go of anger, and then blame, and then the need to prove that “I am right.”

The world doesn’t need more scorekeepers. It needs more Christians to bear witness to beauty and to love. To choose justice and compassion over nitpicking. To extend grace at every age, to all ages, just as ceaselessly as God does for all of us.

About the Author
Editors are nothing like moms

Angela Reitsma Bick, Editor-in-chief

Angela Reitsma Bick began writing for Christian Courier in 2002 as a freelancer. After finishing an MA in English Lit from Queen’s University, she taught English at Redeemer University College as an Adjunct professor and served as Director of its Writing Centre for three years. She became Editor of Christian Courier in 2009, having learned English grammar in Moscow, research skills in grad school and everything else on the fly. Her vision is for Christian Courier to give body to a Reformed perspective by exploring what it means to follow Jesus today in our homes, churches and schools; in our neighbourhoods and across this country. She hopes that the shared stories of God at work in the world inspire each reader to participate in the ongoing task of renewing his creation. Angela lives in Newcastle, Ontario with her husband, Allan, and three young children