I’m typing this in the kitchen, standing up in front of my laptop computer at the counter, while my 4 year old son and his best friend have a snack. “Jen!” his friend says, “Elijah’s chewing with his mouth open!” I ask him to stop and when he doesn’t I say something to his friend that I heard many times as a child. “Don’t let him push your buttons,” I admonish.
Four is an age of literalism, and they stare at me blankly. As so often happens, I’m suddenly scrambling to explain something that seemed perfectly clear to me coming out of my mouth. “Um, ‘push someone’s buttons’ means bothering them on purpose. He’s doing it because he wants to bug you. If you don’t get bugged, he’ll stop.” The kids go back to their snack and I go back to my computer, and then I hear both of them trying out their new slang, “Hey, stop it! You’re pushing my buttons!” This time I try a new admonishment, “Just be kind to each other. Be kind.”
As adults, we may be more subtle about it, but this is how we live, isn’t it? In our communities and neighborhoods and families, we DO push each other’s buttons. We get bugged. We need reminders to be kind.
Our church is one of the places where we learn and practice how to be in community with each other. We learn and practice compassion, and then we go out in the world and try to live it. And like the lessons learned around the kitchen table, “Don’t let her push your buttons. Don’t bug him. Be kind” – we can carry these lessons out into the world, to be the authentic, compassionate people God calls us to be. We can’t just hear those words once, or twice or fifty times. We have to keep hearing them and practicing them over and over our whole lives long. The hearing of those words, and the practicing, is why we gather together in worship, in meetings, at play. Because we know that we just can’t remember it on our own. We need the stories in scripture, we need the sacraments – baptism and communion, and we need the Christ we find in each other.
The kids have now finished their snack, and they’re playing something in the backyard involving a lot of splashing water around. This definitely means that someone is going to get their buttons pushed before long. And then I’ll start over, saying the same words, and hoping that this is the time they’ll sink in. Until I say them the next time.
See you in church!