Well! I was asked to contribute some thoughts to the blog run by my church, St. Stephens Episcopal, here in Ridgefield, CT. They ran this today – enjoy!
JULY 6, 2017
“Mommy! Mommy! MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!”
Ugh. While my children did the appropriate amount of night-waking as infants and toddlers, we are well past that stage right now, and I am having a lot of difficulty with this 2am Mommy-alarm.
“Mommy, I’m really really really scared!”
Deep breath. Get out of bed. Stumble across the hall.
“Mommy,” my 6-year old tells me, “I woke up, and I was all alone, and GOD wasn’t there.” He is sitting up in his bed, clutching his Winnie the Pooh, and the fear is real on his face.
I sit next to him on his bed, pull him into my lap, and hold him close….and wonder what on earth I’m going to say. My general rule of thumb with him is to only answer the question he asks, and it’s gotten me through a lot of questions and ponderings as he begins to grapple with the more complex nuances of our world, and the Divine within it.
After my grandfather passed, questions of death and the afterlife naturally came up. This is what the Bible says, I’d tell him, and this is what I believe, I’d share, but this isn’t something you can know, it’s something we trust in faith. And it takes a lifetime. And you change your mind a lot. But that’s okay, because God is always there as we journey towards Him, working this all out.
He became enraptured with the Apostle Paul this past spring, and how he was one thing one day, and then ZAP he became another. “Is being Jewish wrong, Mommy?” he asked. “No,” I answered, and this is what the Bible says and this is what I believe and Jesus tells us to love, love, love and God loves everyone and that’s hard to wrap our minds around, but that’s okay, because God is always there as we journey towards Him, working this all out.
“Why do I have to give some of my toys to charity?” he demanded angrily as we prepared a box to donate to the upcoming Nutmeg festival. This is what the Bible says about giving, I say, and this is what I believe, and boy is it hard sometimes to give, but that’s okay, because God is always there as we journey towards Him, working this all out.
God is always there. I realize whatever he has asked, I’ve reiterated this as fact. With all the nuance and area for interpretation I’ve shared with him, the fact that God is always there has never been up for discussion.
Yet, I don’t always feel that God is there. There have been times when I’ve felt loved and cared for in Her arms, when I’ve felt the Holy Spirit lift me up and out, when Jesus has been just in my peripheral vision…and there have been times when I’ve called out in pain or for help, and it’s seemed as if my prayer is going into a void. When a tragedy strikes, and I can’t process how a God who loves us so much and is all-powerful could allow it to be, and so how, how, is God there.
And finally, I remember. When I was six. I walked into the living room and found my mother sitting on the couch, hands relaxed and resting on her lap, eyes closed. “What are you doing?” I asked. “I’m praying,” she replied, “I’m listening. Sometimes if you hold yourself very very still and quiet…you can hear God.”
I took this very, extremely, literally. This seemed a magic trick I could surely do. That night, I lay in my bed, and held myself very very still and was so so so quiet…and NOTHING. I wasn’t sure how long I had to stay doing this, so with tenacity I maintained my still quiet state until (of course) I fell asleep. I woke up the next morning so disappointed. I truly believed God would say, “well, hello there, Erika! Good work being really still and quiet! I love you!” I kept my experiment, and failure, to myself…but it was the first time I allowed the thought to enter my mind – is God really here?
Six is a big age for existential angst, apparently.
“Baby,” I say to my son, “I know exactly how you feel.”
“I was all alone.” He sighed.
“I know how that feels.” I said. “Honey, everyone feels that way sometimes. It’s okay if you can’t feel God and that makes you feel alone or sad or mad.”
And maybe our next existential crisis could happen at a time other than 2am, I thought to myself. Yawn.