Being reverent is a phrase we grew up knowing, but mostly as the tattle-tale outcast, not as a close friend. Being reverent, for me, meant a behavior, a set of folded arms, a quiet mouth, a bum in a pew. As I’ve grown older, and now have my own kids to teach, that definition isn’t quite cutting it. Of course I believe in teaching my children respect, and of course I don’t let them run wild during meetings, there is value in learning to sit calmly, but nothing else I am teaching them in their lives lends itself to equating their value in the eyes of God with being silent.
It seems to be a running theme that many of our trusty go-to standard Mormon words are antiquated. They’ve expired and it’s exhilarating to think that we have the work of forming new language, evolved and better equipped to serve us. There are words, like preside for example (see recent posts), or reverent, that mean different things to different generations and the discrepancies can leave us frustrated and confused.
I would say that rather than butt heads with these words and their users, and rather than just simply replacing them, let’s go to the work of wrestling with these words (as happened a couple of posts back) so that we can really get to the bottom of what we say, then mean, then do. And if we need to, let’s retire those tired words.
Back to the word reverent then. It’s on my mind because it’s been a hot topic in my ward. Older generations wanting kids to be more ‘reverent’ and younger generations of parents saying we are doing our best, but we also want our kids to be a part and loved in all their child-like authenticity, which often doesn’t equate to silent, folded arms.
It got me to thinking then, what does reverence mean? How do I teach my children reverence beyond a behavior? I’m personally not interested in wheedling my two and four year old into silent perfection, because while it might be nice to actually sit through a meeting uninterrupted, I sorrow at the implications of showing them they are not welcome or a part, unless x, y or z. And plus, their interruptions are most often not ill-intentioned jabs into the spiritual experiences of others during a sacrament meeting, but rather the interruptions are quiet laughter, a goldfish delivery to a friend a few rows back, a half whisper in my ear.
What if instead of the emphasis resting on teaching reverence to our children, we, as adults, simply stopped and reverenced children and their wild, and curious spirits? What if we reverenced the parents who are working hard for those children? What if we reverenced the single woman who brings a bag of toys and sits with a family every week during sacrament meeting? What if we reverenced the single man who has been in nursery for three years? Three years!!! What if we taught our children to reverence the fact that we are all part of an unintentional community? What if we reverenced the fact that we all cram in a room together for an hour each week and somehow believe that we are better for it? What if we reverenced the people who find they need to step away from the church in order to better find themselves and God? What if we spent more time reverencing the mountains and fields? What if we reverenced the things that make us different? What if we spent more time reverencing the life and mission of Christ?
It’s not a new concept, but often a forgotten one, that when our spirits reverence Christ and the things that point toward Him, our outward actions are also more reverent. Children are capable of feeling reverence, and we can allow them the opportunity to work out their understanding and feelings before we quash it with demands to only be reverent.
I still believe in the word reverent, but I like it better when the final ‘t’ is removed and we change it to a ‘ce’. What do we reverence? And how can we teach our young people to want to practice reverencing ideas, hopes, faith and people?
What do you reverence and how do you practice it?