Without a question, my greatest wish would be for [my son] to understand the spiritual struggle and to be a pious Orthodox Christian.
It’s a human weakness to feel a vicarious pride in the accomplishments of our children. From Day One we’re always looking for signs of excellence and, more often than not, the measure of our children’s progress is made against other children and their parents. It’s selfish and self-centered, and some would say it’s just a result of Darwinian natural selection. But how many of us parents, Orthodox or of any Christian faith, measure our children’s success in terms of their relationship with Christ and their faithfulness to his Holy Church? And when our children graduate from high school and go out into the world, will we also measure our success as parents by their careers and income or by their devotion to prayer and an active church life?
I so feel Troy Polomalu’s desire for his son to be a pious Orthodox Christian. It is the only burning desire I have for my own two sons. When I first became a parent I agonized over raising children with a spouse that was and remains completely closed off to the Orthodox faith. For so many years I’ve felt like a windbreak in a howling gale, protecting the tiny flame of faith I’ve tried to catch in my children. As long as I’m nurturing that flame I have hope, but the scary part is when you realize that you’ll have to stand up and move away. Whether or not that flame continues to burn is dependent to some degree on the fuel you fed the flame with, but I think the harder part of letting go is accepting your children’s own free will and openess to the Holy Spirit. Sadly, some may want to light new fires of their own or even let their flame die out. I worry that despite all my efforts, my kids may do just that, and then what? Will I accept their choices or rage against their free will? Parenting is surely a cross in its own way.
Do not miss reading the rest of Troy Polomalu’s interview with Pittsburgh Magazine. Every Orthodox parent in America needs to read this interview and take to heart a commitment to the spiritual lives of our children. There is an eternity of consequence at stake here. Football may be a game but the salvation of our children (and ourselves) is not.