Our experience of the Holy Father is often shaped by our experience with our earthly father. — The Reverend Geneva Metzger
The man in the pulpit of my Grandma Hayes’ country church spoke so fast I could barely make out what he was saying. He gasped between bursts of words, taking in great, audible whooshes of breath, like an auctioneer, and then switching back to words after his inhale was complete. I strained to hear and understand, despite his unfamiliar rapid-fire, cadence. I was eight, maybe? Ten at the most. The pitch of his voice rose and fell, and he sometimes stretched “God” or “sinner” into extra syllables, twisting the pitch up a notch or two as he went. I could make out “hell” and “fires of hell” and “burning” in the mix. I sat gobstruck, trying to discern why this man would speak this way.
At my brown brick church in downtown Sparta, North Carolina, the one with soaring stained glass windows that made my mom’s diamond ring sparkle when the sun streamed in, we talked about sin and God — but fires didn’t come up. The minister there was my friend. He never yelled.
My UNCG Baptist Student Union Campus Minister, Geneva Metzger, never yelled either. She suggested that our experience of the Holy Father is often shaped by our experience with our earthly father.
My dad was a state trooper. He commanded respect. My sister and I used to say we’d rather get a spanking than one of Daddy’s “talking to’s” when he’d calmly point out our wrongs and make us understand why our choices were unwise, inconsiderate, and ill-conceived. Moreover, Dad talked to me, read to me, listened to my stories, asked about school and my friends. Even today, in his 80s, he loves little children. My dad hears what children around him say, and he doesn’t refute or change it. It earns him their love and respect. The same was true for me.
In the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, the children’s formation approach used here at St. Peter’s, “catechists” nurture the child’s work of “falling in love with God.”
These words bordered on crazy talk the first time I heard them. Does one really do such a thing? The Apostle Paul’s exhortations to action were drilled into my family and faith. Falling in love represented an unspeakable grace to the lowly sinner–a reciprocation I didn’t understand when it came to The Holy.
I tuned in to the Montessori approach of the training, and simple hand-eye coordination works, such as spooning beans or pouring water. I rolled my eyes when I learned we taught a three-year-old how to spoon beans. Then I discovered these critical “works” gave the child a way to build muscle skills needed for future lessons such as pouring drops of water into a chalice of wine as a means to ponder Christ’s divinity and humanity. I began a 20-year love affair as a catechist in the Catechesis of The Good Shepherd. Men and women from around the globe sign up for formation every year, answering the call of inviting the child to “fall in love with God.”
An unknown benefit is that we catechists, too, again embark on that journey of falling in love with God, our Father. What a journey it is, encountering yet again, Yahweh, Abba, our listening, loving, demanding, firm, pearl-of-great-price Father/Mother God, in the humblest of places with our youngest learners sitting on the floor right beside us.
Susan Dosier, Catechist