Monday, April 28, 2008

Conformed or transformed, Ashlyn edition

During our marriage retreat this weekend, we chewed on the Message version of Romans 12:1-2, which has always been more familiar to me in the NIV:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Am I conforming to a man-made pattern? Or being transformed by Someone greater?

Lying on a park bench facing shiny white yachts on Newport Back Bay, I had a good time thinking this through, massaging the challenge and promise of it into the dry, chafed skin of my soul. I even came up with a neato list of contrasts between conformity to the culture as compared to transformation by God, which you can read if you're so inclined. It was a great time.

And as seems typical of this phase of life, God used one of my children to ram home the point in even more living color than my brilliant, tranquil vantage point there on the park bench could offer. On the way home from the retreat, we took our children to their preschool spring concert. Class by class, waves of children took to the stage to dance, sing, shout or at least lip sync their way through songs their dutiful teachers and parents had toiled to teach them. Each class stood up on stage, sang their handful of songs, waved accompanying props, and filed back into auditorium seats to the relief of their cookie-wielding teachers. Illuminated by the camera flashes and proud gazes of their parents, hundreds of children engaged in this exercise.

But not my Ashlyn.

Spurred on by the promise of the cookie, she made it to the stage; I'll give her that. She even held the umbrella as her classmates sang the first song, "The rain is gently falling, falling, falling. The rain is gently falling, showing God's great love."

But from there on, she was all about Saint Paul's "be ye not conformed." She sat, she grimaced, she squirmed, she turned around. She screwed up her face in ways betraying her scorn for any activity in which many people do the same thing at once. Mommy took the stage and nearly mooned the audience trying to get Ashlyn back on her feet in a semblance of rank and file, but it lasted only seconds.

Ashie, my non-conformity sermon in shoe--one shoe, that is. The other had gone AWOL somewhere during her sit-in of the concert.

Of course, after this defiant performance, we didn't allow her to have the coveted cookie. Of course, she screamed in protest. And of course, I threw her over my shoulder fireman-style and carried her outside for a time-out that lasted as long as her tantrum and almost made us miss Brielle's part of the program.

And throughout the punishment ritual, I was glowing.

Part of me knows Ashlyn will avoid a lot of hassle if she learns to go with the flow, especially when it's a good flow, like this concert was. I suppose it is part of my job as Daddy Dearest to hammer the virtue of compliance into her ample skull.

But mostly, I hope she never does get around to picking up conformity.

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