August 30, 2013
Summer is that time of year when your plans of endless fun come crashing down and you realize that you are no longer a kid. Long gone are the days of the beach and In-N-Out burger almost every day (I grew up in sunny California, where we do summer right.) Now we live in a world in which we don’t have class, but we have work. And work and also a little bit of work. Dinners have been a kind of lifeline for me because they’ve allowed for some much needed catching-up with friends.
So there I sat, across from my dear friend Ashton, catching up. We talked about work and family and Miley Cyrus and how the world that we know is a really sad, broken place and finally I said, “Emily Post is changing my life.”
And she is. Sure, I had my doubts at first. I thought it might just be a time machine read, a look into the past of how things used to be. But when I started to get deeper into this book, I realized that the reason Post labors over every little detail (example: If bacon is crispy, eat it with your fingers. If it is limp, eat it with a fork.) is that the heart of etiquette remains that same.
True etiquette is an action that is fueled by a care for others.
The way that we live our lives as believers should be no different. We hold the door for one another. We offer to help someone move. We volunteer in the nursery. Why? Because as believers, our conduct is greatly fueled by a care for others. Why? Because our Redeemer laid down his literal life for us.
Lately I’ve been watching a separation between the generations. There is a feeling of “us” and “them” when it comes to my generation, the “kids-these-days,” and those who are old enough to be our parents. We even splinter off our own lives in terms of how old we are. A friend recently remarked, “So many people I know (sometimes including myself) envision their future as a radical break from their past/present, but it seems to me that healthy futures always reckon with the formative nature of the past.”
The previous generations were greatly influenced by Post. She’s spoken into countless conversations, relationships and business deals. It’s because of her that you get thank-you notes promptly and shake hands when you meet someone new. And yet, there’s a lot of dislike for Post. When I first mentioned to a friend that I was reading this book, he quickly responded, “I’ll stick to my own etiquette, thanks.”
One of the most profound realities of the Church is that it is because of previous generations that we are here. Open up to Hebrews 11 and you’ll see the list of those who have gone before. We are not at this point in the history of the Church because of anything that we have done. In fact, millennials are kind of notorious right now for our rebellious distaste of the church of our parents and grandparents.
But oh, how mistaken we are if we go on believing that our generation is the solution to any imperfections in the church. And how sad it is to me when we continue splintering ourselves off from the past.
You do not get to create your own conduct or etiquette, because disciples died proclaiming that we are not our own. We are not millennials, or Generation X-ers. We are believers that come from a great legacy and a long line of preachers and parents and peasants and pilgrims. Our past is not an accident. It’s a narrative that the Lord is telling using the likes of us as those who pass on the torch.
Emily Post is reminding me that every action is a direct reflection of the heart. And Paul is preaching to me that our conduct is a window to the gospel. What a tremendous responsibility. Please don’t silence the past in an effort to fabricate a root-less future.
Melissa Zaldivar is an MATH student from California. She loves golf, theology, Jewish holidays, people falling in love, Jonathan Edwards, chocolate chip cookies, her adorable niece and telling stories. When she's not filming and photographing weddings, you can find her reading news articles, watching Parks and Recreation or playing Super Smash Bros.
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