(Ir)reverence, maturation, and heaven

Some weeks ago, while driving, my young son asked about heaven.  With the advice of a book on nurturing faith in children echoing in my head, I more or less steered the conversation away from heaven — a concept probably too deep and too advanced for him, at present.  But before I diverted his attention, a memory or two had surfaced.  I doubt anyone is singing this “camp song” anymore, but it’s still in my head:

Heaven is a wonderful place, filled with glory and grace.
I want to see my Savior’s face.  Heaven is a wonderful place.  

That’s about all there was to it, I think.  The guys had a quasi-doo-wop bass line, and the girls’ melody at “I want to see my Savior’s face” had a matching ascending line.   At the end of a rep, the guys would sing “wanna go there” on sol-la-ti, just before the next go-round.  A bit irreverent in style, it seems to me, but there are worse things than bad style matches, and the longing to see Jesus in heaven is a good thing to sing about.

Another heaven song I learned later, as a teen, was even simpler in terms of text, but strikes me as more reverent, stylistically speaking:

Soprano:  Someday … someday … someday … someday. . . .
Alto and bass:  Peace and joy and happiness; no more sorrow; someday . . . .
Tenor:  Gotta be ready when He calls my name! (3x)  Someday. . . .

I’m still drawn to that kind of mood — a mood created by believers as they sincerely long for the end-times when we will be conscious of nothing else but God and the eternal “place” prepared.  And I’m concerned that Jedd grow up with ample spiritually vibrant experiences that lead him toward such reverent faith.

In related memories with less apparent reverence . . . I suppose I didn’t die spiritually from hearing others add the childish “king-ki-dink,” like a rhythmic ta-da, at the end of the chorus of that ridiculous arky-arky song . . . or from asking God to “give me gas for my Ford.”  I suppose my child will also be able to avoid immune system shutdowns when he hears silly music attached to deep concepts of the Lord.  Still, I will try to steer him clear of “Father Abraham” and the like!

In the meantime, I’m OK with Jedd’s periodic questions about eventually being “up with God in heaven.”  Even though “up” is not exactly how I think of heaven’s “location,”  in the 1st century, hoi ouranoi seems to have meant “skies” as well as a more spiritual “heaven.”  It’s probably just fine that Jedd has this childlish, elevated, “other” concept of heaven at this point.  God, keep developing His precious soul.

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5 thoughts on “(Ir)reverence, maturation, and heaven

  1. Samuel Ronicker 03/02/2013 / 8:03 am

    Interesting that you say that, because I was raised on similar songs and teachings and I turned out alright, at least so far. I think it far better to start children on those simple memorable things even if they’re slightly irreverent or immature. Children are immature. They need to start off on the “milk” of the gospel and then when they’re ready start eating the “meat.”

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    • Brian Casey 03/02/2013 / 9:12 am

      Thanks for reading and for your comment, Sam. My overall point was just that: that one may turn out all right even if fed with silliness and less-than adequate material about God as he grows up. I did say “I suppose I didnt die spiritually …” If you’re referring to the two songs from which I quoted entire lines, I have no issue with them, really!

      You’re right, of course, that there is room for immature expression in those who are less mature, i.e., children and other babes in faith. Wouldn’t you say, though, that “My God Is So Big” is a LOT better than some of the knee-slapping, hand-clapping material of some camps and children’s classes? We need our children to grow in knowledge of God, avoiding desperate competition with current entertainment media. I will opt out of “Give me gas for my Ford … wax for my board … umption for my gumption” and also believe we can do better than “arky, arky” — what does a child remember from having sung that? I’d suggest it’s the silliness of the words and the giggles produced, not the history of God and Noah, that sticks in the memory. “Father Abraham” probably has its place at the campfire, as long as it’s not being used in a spiritual vein.

      I didn’t say this in the post, and I’m not sure how hard you’re intending to press the point, I’ll suggest that there *might *be a relationship between “entertainy” children’s church songs and today’s over-concern with style and being entertained in adult churches. Something has gone wrong with the focus of many youth groups of recent decades, I’d say, or else we wouldn’t have as many younger adults without biblical moorings who appear to gravitate to glitz more than to God. For me, 1) content must always win over style, 2) style should match content, and 3) therefore, content that points aptly to God will have appropriate style. What’s appropriate is, in large measure, determined by the listener, and my own tastes do change somewhat with the passing years, so there’s always some latitude. For instance, I once was spiritually stimulated by Michael W. Smith’s “How Majestic Your Name” but now feel there is music available that is a better match for concepts of majesty.

      Again, overall, my point was that, sure, we can generally come out OK, regardless — but that some songs aren’t really worthy vehicles, even for children. Discerning adults have the responsibility of bringing up children, since they’re not mature enough to discern, whereas we are. So I want us to do better by our children than was done for me when I was younger. (High school days and beyond were quite a bit better, in my case.) You and I might exchange an “arky” one day, but we would know it’s all in fun. Children need better-conceived material, although obviously on a less mature level than, say, Joseph Addison’s words in “The Spacious Firmament on High” or Watts in “Early, My God, Without Delay.” Don’t you think the gospel song “Anywhere with Jesus” is a better thing for your child or grandchild to grow up with in her heart than “arky”? And aren’t “How Great Is Our God” and even “How Great Thou Art” better than “Father Abraham”? 🙂

      *Brian Casey, D. Arts*

      *blcasey.wordpress.com*

      All living may be encapsulated in learning the meaning of — and learning to live — some key words. The really great words to master are short oneswork, love, hope, joy, pain, home, child, life, death, peace, grace, Lord . . . . (adapted from Halford E. Luccock)

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    • Samuel Ronicker 03/02/2013 / 4:51 pm

      Ah I see. I took your writing as derisive towards the songs you quoted. And while I agree gospel teaching needs to involve better content all-round, don’t doubt God’s ability to use “arky” and other such silly works to bring people to Himself.

      I rencently read a blog about this very idea written by my decidedly agnostic/atheist friend: http://stevenspecht.com/2013/02/09/the-failed-pyramid-scheme-of-evangelical-christianity/

      He has an interesting perspective. And, while we don’t agree on many things when it comes to faith, I agree with his writings in that entry.

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  2. Brian Casey 03/02/2013 / 5:58 pm

    Sam, thanks again. I really can’t (or at least don’t want to) deny that I am being derisive toward a few of the songs I learned as a child. (Hope it wasn’t your uncle that composed one of those! I’ve composed a few dogs myself.)

    I might eat gum drops tonight — bought a cheap bag a couple days ago — but I realize that stuffed peppers and even pretzels are better for me than gum drops. It’s not God’s ability I doubt; it’s our wisdom in making choices sometimes.

    I figure, why not reach a bit higher or choose something better? Overall, I’m trying to be transparent, wonder out loud about potential “damage” to my son’s spiritual immune system (I really do have the mini-fear that he’s not malnourished by what I consider spiritual tripe, and I doubt he will experience lasting effects, but I still want better things in his diet where possible), and encourage a step up in quality all at the same time. Sorry if this hit ended up offending some sensibility more than it achieved any worthwhile goal.

    Appreciated your friend’s comments very much, by the way, and had also seen the “10 reasons” blog he referred to. BTW, I either sold or trashed my (gift) copy of one Rick Warren book. I guess I shouldn’t advertise that too loudly! 🙂 -bc

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