On Freedom and Upbringing

I was converted to Christ not long after my eighteenth birthday. I was at a Christian cottage ground visiting my best-friend at the time, Tim McCready. I won’t get into the nitty-gritty of my conversion–I’ve written about that elsewhere on my blog–but I do want to post a couple of thoughts about Tim.

Both of us went to grade-school together up until about grade three. I don’t really recall much about him, except that once he berated me for spelling “night” with a “k.” We met up again in highschool and I remember being surprised that he was who he said he was. He’d had braces in the meantime and he looked a lot different.

Tim was and always will be an aficionado of music–I owe a huge part of my musical taste to him. In highschool he was the first person I knew who was into bands like Pearl Jam, Mother Love Bone, The Smiths, Dinosaur Jr., etc. He was ahead of the trends, but for some reason people never really noticed. He still is, but I think people have finally begun to get it. If Tim writes about a band on his blog, I wait for about a year and said band is superstar.

We became friends in highschool after I had a pretty big spat with my previous best-friend. I had just started to learn bass guitar and Tim invited me over to jam with a bunch of musicians in his basement. The only thing I remember about that was all of us blasting “Keep On Rocking In The Free World” by Neil Young.

Over the years Tim and I were in two bands together and had two major splits in our friendship, I think both were over girls. It is rarely advisable for two best-friends to date two best-friends! I can admit my fair share of culpability in that!

Tim looms large in my life and always will because he is the agent whom God used to convert me. Whenever I “share my testimony” he’s there somewhere, whether I name him explicitly or not. Whatever Tim may think of those days, I hold them close to my heart–they are precious.

Through various sad events, Tim and I eventually allowed our friendship to cool and peter out. As I grew in faith Tim lost his. Our lives have drifted in very different directions. The things that I cherish–forgiveness of sins, the glory of God in Christ, love for the church–Tim hates. Indeed, he looks back on his life and upbringing with venom. He would say I’m deluded.

In a recent blogpost entitled “Covenant,” Tim explains the hatred he has for his past and his upbringing. I am always interested when Tim opens up this part of his life because in some ways it’s a window into my own. While I don’t want to evaluate everything he has said in this post, one paragraph really caught my attention and is a lesson to me as I seek to raise my own son. Tim says, “My parents meant well, but the situation is what it is; the childhood foundation of my consciousness is a LOAD OF HORSE SHIT! The best explanation I can come up with is that we’re all living in a rapidly changing world. My parents were nostalgic for the conservative 1950′s they grew up in and wanted things to be the same yesterday, today and forever. It’s ironic that their strict rules caused me to become so OBSESSED with secular art, media, fashion and youth culture novelties of the past 60 years.”

He is dead-on when he talks about his parents as “nostalgic for the conservative 1950’s they grew up in” and I think that this is an indictment on so many parts of the church–especially the inheritors of fundamentalism.

I can remember that Tim was forced to stay in on a Sunday after church–it seems to me that it had nothing to do with any theological sabbatarianism (there was no “call the Sabbath a delight”), rather he had to stay inside and do homework. On Fridays Tim was subjected to a horrible regimen of “youth” that involved having as many marshmallows crammed into your mouth as possible–maybe fun for a ten year old, but in highschool? As a kid he couldn’t have He-Man action figures because He-Man didn’t get his power from God, but from Grayskull. He couldn’t have bad-guy G.I. Joe’s either.

By and large, Tim was stifled in his upbringing. There was no freedom, only law. He couldn’t go to most movies, couldn’t go to school dances, he couldn’t listen to “secular” music (I still laugh when I think of all of the CDs he had hidden in his room, under carpets, etc).

While I don’t want to insult Tim by psychologising him, I do sympathise with some of his anger at the way he was brought up. It is no wonder that his legalistic upbringing actually drove him into music, art, culture, media, etc. (although I think Tim would have loved these things regardless of upbringing).

A lesson that I hope to have learned (there are many more), and I’ve thought about this for a long time, is to allow my children to appreciate the world that God created. I want to give them the freedom to live life and enjoy it. To see the beauty of God in a Jimmy Page solo, to taste the goodness of God in a pint of Bass (at a decent age of course!), to experience God’s artistry in Edward Hopper, to feel the personality of God in China Town. I recognise of course that I’m imposing my own likes at this point, but I want my children to appreciate God’s world in whatever forms of culture he or she likes best. However that may manifest itself in their lives, I want to enjoy it with them.

Legalism is a scourge and destroys lives. Tim is living proof of this and on a certain level I’m glad that he’s free from it. I listen to Tim’s music and am glad that he’s no longer under the yoke of a certain type of law. I look at his photography and envy how he’s developed his talent. It would be disingenuous of me to not mention my deep regret that he hates Christ, but he knows that already. But I do hope that Tim continues to make good art and hopefully one day he’ll be about to account for how it is all possible.

I’m glad for the very real lesson I’ve learned. Tim is not the only one who has taught this to me, many others have modeled what freedom really looks like and so it is to them that I also look to for the positive aspects of child-rearing. None-the-less, I hope and pray that when my children are adults that they won’t look back on the life I’ve raised them in and spit.

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1 Comment

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One response to “On Freedom and Upbringing

  1. Some very good observations. Having grown up in Christian schools and churches, I’ve had many friends go through similar experiences – but we’re not quite at the age where they’ve had the time to reflect on “what on earth happened then?”.

    It’s seemed to me that my friends who went through, like Tim, with super-legalistic parents would turn away – but likewise, those with super-liberal parents would end up turning away. It was only those with solid parents in solid churches that would stay the path (though thankfully, by the grace of God, some of those even with non-Christian parents have become Christians in the last year and are powering on in our church!)

    I’ll definitely be praying that you’re not either of those parents… the job of father is a tough one! (Oh, and did you get my email the other day? I wasn’t sure if I sent it to the right address or not…)

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