Wait, Oatmeal Is a Value?
I do most of the cooking at our house.
I have been married to my wife for a little over a year. Like most couples, we divvied up the household tasks by a combination of desire, competency, and available time. She does the accounting and most of the laundry. I learned that she despises shopping for groceries. I like driving, grocery shopping, and cooking. So I do. Each family figures out their own rhythms.
Since we had our daughter several family members have traveled to visit us. On more than one occasion they have heaped praise on the oatmeal I make for breakfast. I suspect there are several reasons. I make sure to add salt to the boiling water beforehand, which heightens flavor. I also add brown sugar, maple syrup, cream, chopped apples, and cinnamon. I also enjoy the presentation- making the oatmeal look good. Or as good as oatmeal can look. I value food and cooking. It’s part of what I brought from my family to make our new family.
The first time I met my wife’s extended family I learned about their values. One big one is conversation. Her extended family has some world-class storytellers, and some tales to tell. There’s the one about the crazy granddad who liked to mow his yard barefoot. And yes, accidents happened. Those stories are told often, but always with gusto and in front of a willing audience. As a result, my wife is an expert conversationalist. That is a value she brings to our new family. If we went to a dinner party I would be a bump on a log without her leading the way.
“Hey! Who wants to hear about oatmeal?”
In high school I had a friend who didn’t value food. We would always make fun of him for eating three bites of his burger and throwing the rest in his glove box. Later when I went to his house I realized their family didn’t eat dinner together. That was unthinkable to me. Dinnertime was sacred in my family. That was how we shared appreciation and talked about our day. We sacrificed other things to make sure we had dinner together. His family bonded in different ways, but not over food.
Christian researcher and teacher Arthur Burk defines values this way,
A value is three things:
1. It is an abstract concept
2. That you voluntarily embrace
3. At the expense of personal comfort.
Left to our own desires we choose our own values, unless someone imposes their values on us.
Famed economist Thomas Sowell describes children this way,
“Each new generation is in effect an invasion of civilization by little barbarians who must be civilized before it is too late.”
Babies hate discomfort, and they impose pain on their moms and dads until they get what they want. This only works for so long until the parents step in and start to impose some order in the baby’s life. The baby has to learn to synchronize to the family’s values and to society at large.
“Yes, you have to wear a shirt AND pants.”
When my parents civilized me, they made it obvious what the values were- food, family, God, prayer, forgiveness. They returned to them over and over and over again. In time I adopted those values, because my people valued them.
As a music instructor I have learned it takes a lot of reps before my students realize the brilliant thing I just told them was important. So we drill it again and again and again. I quiz them on it later. That little bit of pain they feel when it is clear they forgot helps drive the point home, “This must be important or we wouldn’t be talking about it, again.”
In the Old Testament, The Israelites would build memorials to God’s goodness. When He did something memorable, they would pile stones up to create an altar. Then they would tell their children again and again about the great thing God did on that piece of land.
Think for a moment about the values of your home church. Not the values espoused in your mission statement. I mean the values that come up from the soil. The stories you tell, the songs you sing, the way that your people greet one another, or the way your pastor interacts with the congregation. Those are your values. Those values build culture in a family, a church, or a nation. And those values aren't transferred in a one-time data dump.
For something to remain a value, it has to stay valuable. It must be revisited again and again and again. There is always a new generation of barbarians needing to know how to be like their people.
“One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts.”