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Ashes

There will come a day when I must have “the talk” with my son. He’ll have probably heard all about it, through movies and friends’ older brothers. Our culture is saturated with such talk. It is everywhere one looks and listens. By the time we have this talk, maybe he will even have firsthand experience!

But I should speak with him before then, of course. The talk is about a natural way of life; the subject doesn’t have to be perverted or cheapened or lessened in any way. And the Bible is full of teachings and stories that deal – directly and indirectly, explicitly and implicitly – with the topic of “the talk” so there’s plenty of material to mine, explore, and unpack.

So this talk need not be a chore . . .

It might, with the help of great God Almighty, be an opportunity for honesty and vulnerability, which can be an invitation to grace like a summer’s breeze through an open window begs one into the grassy field beyond.

But I confess: I am nervous. Scared, really, if I’m honest. You see, dear reader, I haven’t always had the best experience with this subject. And, I’m not always sure about what I know, much less believe. I can foresee the possibility of certain questions that are ultimately unanswerable. Then, what? What will I say? Will I let him down?

Maybe a better question, what will he want from me? Will I be able to listen? It is very easy to lose oneself in one’s own anxiety about this talk, rather than listening to what a child is saying; very easy, to offer a quick, simple answer like a cheap card trick – one that will not hold up to scrutiny as he grows and is, therefore, quite a waste of everyone’s time. Quite the lost opportunity. This talk should not be a box to check off on the parenting list, not like a form to fill-out, not like a procedure to endure. It is, paradoxically, ultimately about life. 

So, I brace myself; I think. I pray. I know that, someday, I’ll have to talk to Sam about . . .

Death.

Maybe I’ll start with Ash Wednesday. The ashes don’t speak for themselves; we cannot avoid “the talk.” But ashes, I believe, do have something to add to the conversation. May our words be full of grace and truth.

This essay was inspired by an essay in Fathers in Faith: Reflections on Parenthood and a Christian Life.              

About Andrew Taylor-Troutman

I am a pastor and a preacher, a writer, a husband and a father. My professional and personal lives are deeply involved with story-telling: stories that are silly and poignant or profound and commonplace. Stories that are tear-jerkers and belly-shakers. Stories about my son, Sam, and the congregation I serve, New Dublin Presbyterian Church. Each in its own way, these personal narratives shed light on the great story that God is writing with humankind and all of creation.

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