Guest blogger: Steven Cottam
One of my many duties as a religion teacher involves getting the students ready for our monthly school Masses. Despite our preparations together, predictably, some of the younger kids always get anxious. Recently, I was in a pew during Mass in front of a group of first and second graders when I heard a whispered discussion break out:
“Aren’t we supposed to kneel now?”
“No, not yet. We don’t do that til way later.”
“When do we say ‘Alleluia?’ I think it’s soon…”
After bickering quietly, one of the kids hit on what she felt was the perfect solution:
“Look, look, here’s what we’ll do… let’s just watch Mr. Cottam really closely. We’ll just do what he does!”
Suddenly the group went quiet and I could feel 30 pairs of eyes glued to the back of my head. Thirty little sets of eyes following my every move.
Now, I’ve been going to Mass my whole life and know it by heart. Somehow though, with all my actions being scrutinized and dissected by small little souls intent on copying them, I felt a lot of pressure. Everything I did would be imitated. If I did well, thirty little Christians would do well also. If I messed up, thirty little disciples were going to veer off with me.
I was more conscious of my movements than ever before; I went through the rest of the service keenly aware of my participation. I executed every gesture slowly and broadly, so that it could be easily followed. When I raised my hand to cross myself, I heard jackets rustle behind me. When I knelt, I heard kneelers bang down against the floor just a few seconds later. Quickly glancing over my shoulder, I saw that the position I took while praying the Our Father, head knelt and arms out and up, was the exact same position taken by all those in the pew behind me.
I think I did an alright job of showing those kids a good example of theMass.But later, I was reflecting: what if those kids watched my whole Christian life like they watched me during Mass? What if one of them had said, “I don’t know how to be a Christian… I’ll just watch Mr. Cottam really closely and do what he does!” Would I be happy with the Christian that child would become?
In some ways yes, but in a lot of ways such a thought experiment shows the deficiencies I have in my walk with Christ. I’m lost a lot of the time. I’m confused, too. Sometimes it’s from sin and a personal, conscious failure to live the life I’m called to live. But often, like these kids, I honestly just don’t know what to do—there are competing goods, or confusing situations, and I want to be a good Christian and I just don’t how!
And it’s times like this that I am thankful for Christ as the one who came to show us how to be (not tell us how to be, but show us). When I am confused about how to live and how to love, when I am bickering with those around me and stressed and distressed, every now and then a moment will break in, and I’ll hear a small voice…
“Look, look, here’s what you’ll do…just watch Jesus really closely. Just do what he did!”
Ours is not a God who says “do as I say, but not as I do.” Our God came and said, “Love as I have loved! Go forth and do what I have done!”
If someone was watching you today, would they be able to imitate Christ by imitating you? If not, then perhaps it’s time for all of us little children in faith to turn our eyes to the front and watch the motions of the teacher a bit closer.
Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/joshpb/4825402841/