Rite of Passage
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. ~I Corinthians 13:11
I remember the first time I was old enough to sit in the front seat of the family car. I remember when I was old enough to spend the night at a friend’s house. This last weekend Becca and I took our daughter, Savannah, to get her ears’ pierced as a sign that she is no longer in preschool, but is growing up and moving to kindergarten.
Whether we realize it or not, rites of passage are all around us. We have PG-13 movies; one day you can’t watch a particular movie and the next you can? At my son’s school, third graders are old enough to work with horses in a leadership program, but second graders are too young.
When I was in college, I was part of a fraternity which had rituals and rites of passage you had to do to become a member. The year after I became a Phi Delt, I went through another round of “rites of passage” as I became a member of Sphinx club, a group of students on our campus that worked together to run the student body. It was made up of students from every living unit on campus and every grade, sophomore and up. On my campus, we had Inter-fraternal Council and student government, but things didn’t move unless the Sphinx club supported it. It was like a secret society, but everyone knew who its members were.
To become a member of Sphinx club, we had to do a number of things. We had to ring the school bell every hour, on the hour, from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. We had to shave one leg and paint it green. We had to wear little hats called “pots”, which looked like Popeye’s hat. Any time someone yelled “air raid”, we had to do a summersault and act like we were shooting down airplanes. Those were just a few of the things that we had to do to be in Sphinx club.
I look back and wonder why I did it - what was the point? But upon further reflection, I realize that I did it because my roommate, who was also a Sphinx club member, asked me to join so that our house would have a voice on campus. The things we did were silly and pointless, but they had their purpose. Does ringing a bell or doing an air raid drill make you a better person? No. But what it did was to make a group of guys, who came from different houses and different backgrounds, come together for the same purpose. Doing air raids in the mud in February with ten other people somehow makes you closer to those people. Going through something with someone by your side makes you closer.
This past weekend, despite the weather and conflicting school events, we had sixteen 5th, 6th and 7th grade students show up for our Jr. High "kidnapping". This is a yearly event when our current Jr. High students welcome the upcoming 5th graders into the Jr. High group by going to their house and “kidnapping” them for a night of fun. The night is full of Jr. High-led activities designed as rites of passage for the upcoming 5th graders. This is a night when those who have older siblings in the program look forward to their time to be “kidnapped.”
As I reflected back over the night and talked with some of the parents who helped chaperone, the comments that they heard were “the best night of my life” and “this is the coolest thing I have ever done.” But why does kidnapping someone and making them do some initiation rituals make it such a great night? It is because those 5th graders, who got to be a part of the night, are no longer children; they are now Jr. Highers. They have gone through the rites of passage that those before them have gone through, and now they belong. They will remember it the rest of their lives.
You might have similar experiences in your own faith life. Maybe it was when you were confirmed in the church. Maybe it was when you were first asked to be an elder or deacon. Maybe it was your first night in youth group or when you were asked to be a leader in a study.
As Christians, we should always be looking to invite people into the faith. We should be looking for those people, young and old, who are ready; ready for an invite to something new, something special. I wonder who out there is just sitting and waiting to be invited into something greater? Who is ready to take the next step in their faith? Who is ready be asked to do something they haven’t done before? Maybe it is you?