Bridging generation gaps at the coffee shop
A Christian Science perspective: While meeting at a coffee shop, a father and son find a way to connect – a spiritual basis for better communication.
Often in the morning I meet friends at a local coffee shop. There is the usual crowd: folks breakfasting together; earnest young business people, laptop-equipped, selling financial plans; a few teachers grading papers.
During the holiday school breaks, I noticed an addition to this mix – several tables of fathers and sons. That’s a scene that resonates with me – the son sitting (or slouching) obediently but eyes glazed with boredom, the father trying hard but somewhat inarticulately to relate to his son. I’ve been there with both of my sons during the last few years. And what rescued us from the frustrations of miscues and misunderstandings has been my awareness that the Christ is present.
Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, provided in her major work, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” a description of Christ that I like very much. It reads, “Christ is the true idea voicing good, the divine message from God to men speaking to the human consciousness” (p. 332). This Christ-message of our true identity as created by God and loved by God is always present, and when we accept this message, our life experience can be transformed. It lifts us from the drama of human life – the misunderstandings, frustrations, and miscommunications – to see that our natural state as God’s ideas is one of harmony.
This turning of one’s consciousness to God results in good communication, not condemnation, and it strengthens everyone. The impersonal but healing Christ-message can turn a sad state of affairs around.
At a time of extreme frustration with my inability to connect with one of my sons, I found another passage from the same book, which prodded my thinking in a progressive way: “Man is God’s reflection, needing no cultivation, but ever beautiful and complete” (p. 527). If each of us as God’s creation truly is the perfect, complete reflection of God, we don’t pass through stages on the way to maturity – at least not in God’s eyes. I needed to see my son as God saw him, not from my limited perspective as a parent. In short, I realized I could no longer see my son as stuck in a certain stage of material existence, or in any maddeningly unformed condition. Instead, I had to realize that he existed then and forever in a divinely based state of maturity.
I also had to see myself as a spiritual idea of the divine Mind, not stuck in the role of approving/disapproving parent. I was in the same divinely authorized state of maturity, and could see the young man across the table as coming directly from God. Going about my parenting responsibilities, I could rejoice that God was ultimately responsible for him, guiding him and loving him. Yielding to the Christ-message of our complete freedom, as a spiritual idea, destroys the drama of conflict and misunderstanding within the family.
This isn’t always easy, but as I have consistently turned to our Father-Mother God for the strength to see the spiritual maturity of my sons, I have found myself in more productive conversations, where we both have been found voicing good.
This doesn’t mean we talk only about the Christian life or faith and morals. We’ve also talked about politics, sports, schoolwork, and girls. But recognizing God as the Father-Mother of all has built a better foundation of trust for us than either human counseling techniques or coaching in effective communication. I’ve thought of it as having a third chair at the table, where the impersonal and healing Christ is welcomed and provides a solid spiritual basis for the conversation.
The Gospel of John records Christ Jesus as saying, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (10:10). Preserving and strengthening the family with bonds of love and communication is a right thing to do. It emphasizes mutual caring and understanding, and that certainly is an aspect of an abundant life. It’s a Christly activity.
Sometimes I think this approach has helped my sons as well as myself, as they’ve grown to find a new sense of responsibility. They’ve seen more clearly how they fit into and contribute to the family – and I’ve gained a better appreciation for what makes them tick. But what I treasure most are those moments of clear-eyed and happy communication. They are truly gifts of God.