Monday, May 21, 2007

After Confirmation

Yesterday was confirmation for sixteen of our ninth graders. I've been mentoring a group of girls for three years, so I was especially touched as I led worship that day. The Senior Pastor preached (we take turns), and I think he got something in his sermon from everyone's faith statement.

We always have a rehearsal on Saturday, because the confirmands lead the whole service the next day (except presiding at communion). We're kind of hard on them on Saturday, because we know that on Sunday they will be nervous and forget a lot of things. At one point all of the readers were lined up and the other pastor was making a big point about how how they should stand (reverently) and where they should look (toward altar) and where they should get their cues (from me).

Then yesterday morning, I was standing at the altar. The congregation was singing the "Gloria." All of the students came up to the chancel and stood in a line as we had rehearsed. Suddenly I noticed: they were all turned toward the altar, and looking at me.

And they were smiling.

I didn't get a chance to address the confirmands yesterday, except in the words of the liturgy. But as I saw them all dressed up and smiling, I thought about my own confirmation, many years ago. I was smiling pretty hard that day: there were 23 of us in that small congregation's baby boom generation. It was pretty 70's: I wore white boots and had a shag haircut, popular at the time (I hope it never comes back). I had on a lavender checked dress with a ruffle, made by my mother.

I have two sets of godparents, one is pretty dyed-in-the-wool Lutheran and the other Lutheran Pentecostal types. Both serious Christians, though, and both came to my confirmation. The Pentecostal types noticed how hard I was smiling and said that if I had really understood what I was doing, I would be crying. I suppose they meant that I would cry because I would realize the magnitude of what Jesus had done for me.

Yesterday, the confirmation students were smiling. And I felt like crying.

I believe that they were probably smiling for some of the same reasons I smiled: because they were proud of the things they had done in 3 years, and they were looking forward to the party and the fun with all of their friends and family, because they really do want to be regarded as an adult in the church from now on, because they're glad to be done with this time of studying.

As for me, I was crying because I was proud of them -- I knew how far they had come. They were little girls three years ago. Now they were young women. They had stood together with a friend when her mother died. They had supported each other and included each other even though they go to different schools and have different interests. They had come a long way, and I want to make sure that the church does include them as adult members and values their gifts.

But I was crying also because I know how far they still have to go. I know that their faith statements are only the "first try" at what it means to be a person of faith, a disciple in the world. I know that, as some of them have experienced pain and doubt already, they will experience those things in the future, as they follow Jesus and fall away, and return again. And I was crying because I want to be there for them, and I know that I can't be. All I can do is give them a book of prayers, and promise to pray for them, and really pray for them.

Each of their journeys will be so individual, and yet will be trod in the company of other saints. And I will miss our weekly study and fellowship sessions, probably more than they will.

"I give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers..."


more cows than people said...

wow... thanks for sharing... the weaving of your confirmation memories with this day... beautiful.

glad the quote was helpful to you, it is a gem.

kim said...

Ahhh, I was hoping to see this as your post for today. First, I love your confirmation picture; it reminds me of mine! What massive heads of hair we had back then, huh? I, too, hope all that shagginess never returns, but I fear it will--just like all these clothes now that remind me of what I wore in Jr. High. Uggghhh--ugly then, worse now :)! I think you might just be surprised because I think "your girls" will still seek you out; I'm sure of it, at least some of them. Girls of that age need the people who not only know them, but those who actually "see" them and "hear" them, with more than just the eyes and ears. UYou are one of those people, and it's not easy to walk away from that. Not many even want to! I still remember the adults who were there for me then; my 9th grade French teacher, the church youth director, the lady whose kids I babysat, and even a few more. Their influence in my life was so great and important then, just likes yours is now to your girls. Makes you feel REALLY blessed, doesn't it?

Diane said...

Kim, what gracious words. Thank you. I hope I keep in contact with them. But I also know what busy lives they lead in high school. I also know that they all have good parents who will be there for them as well. and of course our youth director is exceptional

Barbara B. said...

Your reflections were poignant -- thank you for sharing them.

(And I dig your 70's hair.)

Serena said...

Beautiful reflections ... thanks so much for sharing.