Friday, December 05, 2008

Questions, questions

Joe & I have a nightly ritual: every night when he goes to bed, he asks me a question. Sometimes they're fiction based, (Star Wars, Metroid, Babylon 5,) sometimes they're science based, (how do blankets keep us warm?) and sometimes they're religion/ philosophy based.

Last night's was one of these. During the day, I said, "Oh poop!" (literally.) Joseph told me not to take the Lords' name in vain. I explained that the Lord's name was NOT "Poop." So last night's question was, "What IS taking the Lord's name in vain?"

(Let me backtrack here and explain that this question almost certainly comes from my father. Whenever he hears someone on TV or a movie or in real life say "Goddamn it," he goes into a tirade about how we shouldn't take the Lords name in vain.)

So I explained that it means literally to blame or to curse God when things go wrong. I added, however, that I don't think God really minds. First of all, He's God, He's pretty darn big, and His feelings probably aren't hurt that easily. Second of all, God created people, so he understands that people get hurt and angry and lash out from time to time.

"But God never answers my prayers," Joseph said.

Ok, this was a new one. "What do you pray for?" I asked.

"I ask him why we need to go to church to worship Him." (Let me interject here and say that Jen and I are not really church going folk, and Joe goes with my parents whenever we visit.) "And he didn't answer me."

So I explained that I don't personally think we do, as God is everywhere. Joe said that he liked going to church with Grandma and Grandpa and I said great- nothing wrong with that. I went on to explain that I think the only way prayers get answered is through other people. (Doctors heal, police & firefighters rescue, friends & family care, etc.) and that if we have any purpose in life, its to do God's work by answering each others prayers -or even our own. (Yes, I've blogged about this before. Sue me.) So if he has questions, ask people, and they may be answered. Or, the answer may come to him through life in general, and he'll have an "AHA!" moment.

Any thoughts?



french toast girl said...

First off, I think Joe is lucky to have you for a dad. :)

I would agree with you to some extent, though I also have had answers to prayers through songs, books, and other things that just "happened" to come across my path at the right time. I've also had a prayer answered in more direct ways as well.

I think the reason that we go to church is that it's a way to worship God together as a community. I happen to love our church, the people who are there, and the things that they do to help others and to worship God as well. It's also a respectful way to set aside time just to be mindful of God, and not all the other things you need to do.

BUT... I certainly do not think that is the ONLY place to pray, or worship. In the car, at school, going for a walk - Joe is right on in that respect. And you can tell Joe that I think God would be disappointed if church was the only place where he and Joe had a conversation. :)

Smooch my godchild for me!

love, me

janie said...

I think you're doing a great job there with some tricky issues by keeping it all very practical and down to earth, keep up the good work Super Dad :)

Knitting Painter Woman said...

I like Rilke's take: Live the questions. (He goes on to imply that we wouldn't understand the answers anyway!).
I am SO irreligious... and therefore not prayerful, either. But I do think that identifying our wishes (and intentions) allows the universe to converge in helpful ways... or allows US to help that convergence happen.
And then there's an anecdote I heard in a 12 step program. St. Peter's giving a tour of his office. There's a pile of stuff in a box marked Yes, and another in a box marked No. But there's a much more gigantic pile in the corner. What're those, asks the visitor? Oh, those are prayers sorted by the answers: The yesses and the nos. But what's that BIG pile? Oh, those are the prayers that were too vague for us to know what to do with.

Tony LaRocca said...

KPW - My personal beliefs were wonderfully summed up by the great late Graham Chapman, "It's like I've always said, there's nothing an agnostic can't do if he really doesn't know if he believes in anything or not."

I'm not religious at all. Whatever God is, I think religion just tries to confine him/her/it to rules and stories mankind made up. Personally, I think that if there is a god, then seeing as all matter and energy have and will always exist, then we must all be a part of him/her/it/whatever.

As far as prayer goes:
There once was a flood. The police drive to the church in the beginning to rescue the priest, but the priest said "don't worry, God will save me."

In a few hours, the waters were ten' high. A rescue boat floated up to the second story window of the church. "Don't worry," the priest said, "God will save me."

Soon the waters reached the roof. A helicopter found the priest on the roof clinging to the steeple, but he refused to leave. "Don't worry," he said, "God will save me."

By the end of the night, the priest had drowned.

So when the priest met God, he said "God, I was always faithful, why didn't you save me?"

And God replied. "You %$#!'ing idiot, I sent you a truck, a boat, and helicopter!"

Caroline said...

Joe is definitely very lucky to have such a thoughtful father.

You've sent me back in time wondering what message I got...

The schools I went to were Christian but I don't think there was any encouragement to pray beyond the Lords Prayer... And a general saying thank you. So prayer wasn't about asking but about saying thanks.

The God helps those who help themsevles motto is one I had a lot of at school - I think some people translated it to mean they should be greedy whilst others realised that its to do with putting in the leg work so that life can deliver the goods!

These days I think its well worth "asking" - what one gets may or may not be what one asked for but its well worth formulating the ask as that helps one know what one wants - and might well help one recognise it when it turns up.

String said...

I love that little parable and I tend to agree with you. We are the Creator's creatures, no reason not to help her out a bit if we are there. ;-)