Thursday, January 10, 2013

Team Grace

“Bless us oh Lord 
These our gifts 
Boutta receive
Christ our Lord 

This is the grace my stepson learned when he was four, and it’s the grace he’s been saying ever since. He’s since straightened out the phrase “thy bounty,” corrected some (but not all) of the missing or nonsensical conjunctions, prepositions, and pronouns, and accelerated the pace by about three hundred percent. I’m always surprised that our picky eater is so eager to get the prayer over with! 

There’s nothing wrong with a memorized grace. Memorized table graces (often rhyming or sung) can be a nurturing shared ritual, and a wonderful way for children to participate in the family’s spiritual life. Family dinners in my childhood always included a grace from a small book of rhyming table graces with lovely illustrations. Leading the family in grace was a special privilege, and my middle sister learned to read, in large part, from that little pink book of prayers. 

However, as my stepson has grown older, I’ve struggled to help him engage in the meaning of the grace he says. “What does that mean?” I ask, “Why do we say it? What is 'bounty'? And are you sure that it’s supposed to be ‘these our gifts’?” This conversation has actually crossed developmental stages: where my questions once were met with a shrug and an “I don’t know, do I have to eat my vegetables?” they now receive an eyeroll and a “whatever.” 

I’ll admit that I have at least a tiny amount of ego in the game. I’m a minister. My kid should be able to say a grace that makes some degree of theological and grammatical sense, and know what he’s saying. We’ve tried this, and we’ve tried that. We’ve tried talking about table graces, teaching table graces, modeling extemporaneous table graces. And finally we tried something that worked. 

Now we say “team grace.” One of us starts with just a few words, maybe a phrase or a sentence, and then the next person adds a few more. It goes around and around the table until someone decides to say “Amen.” It goes something like this: "Dear God, thank you for this food... and for our time together... bless this meal and our family... and help us to do your will... Amen."  

Miraculously, my stepson loves it. And so do I. I love watching him find a few words to say to God. I love seeing him figure out how a prayer is structured, and what he can add. I love that he doesn’t like to be the one to say “Amen,” and so he’ll add additional petitions rather than end the prayer, thanking God for ice skating, or praying for people at other tables or for people who are in need. We are learning to pray together. And it is grace indeed. 

Bless us, oh Lord, and these your gifts which we are about to receive from your bounty. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

No comments:

Post a Comment