Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Crazy Cousins

   So just the other day I went to the mall to replenish my dwindling make-up supplies.  I've been needing a lot of make-up lately considering James is breaking in four molars at the tender age of sixteen months and we ain't gettin' no sleep round here, ya heard?  Katherine insisted on coming.  Anything girlie and you've got yourself a friend in that little muffin.  While Cory and James spun the stroller way to fast through the racks of clothes, Katherine and I plopped ourselves down at the counter of Clinique.  A very nice lady (with perfect make-up) was quick to respond to her two new customers.
     As I started to chat it up with my Clinique friend, I noticed Katherine was awfully quiet in the chair across the aisle.  As in, if there is more than a 90 second interval between comments from her pretty little mouth, I know we're in trouble.  All of sudden, she breaks the silence:  "Whoa! Mom, look what I just got!", I hear from my little princess.   As the Clinique lady and I look over, Katherine hoists up one of the Q-tips used to apply trial make-up.  But it didn't have any make-up on it.  No, of course it didn't.  It had a huge ball of golden wax perched atop the puffy white throne.  She's OBVIOUSLY not girlie enough.  No more make-up trips for you, my little princess, until you're twenty-one and I can safely leave you at the Clinique counter without legal retribution.
    Of course, that little scenario ended with awkward laughs from my Clinique friend and a complete brain-freeze on my end.   On the one hand, I was tickled that she would see a Q-tip and start plugging away at her ear canal.  I mean, after all, that is what they're used for most of the time.  Score one for ear hygiene.  On the gigantic other hand, though, we're in the middle of the mall for crying out loud.  So my natural tendency to dive on top of her and stuff the dirty Q-tip down my shirt in the hopes that nobody notices anything that just happened, well it seemed a bit difficult to pull off.  So the next gut response was to just ignore, but I know Katherine and she will demand a response.  So if I don't want the soiled Q-tip shoved in my face thirty more times with "Mom, look! Mom, look!", I'd better give the dog a bone.  So, I did.  I swallowed my pride, looked at my beaming daughter and said, "Great job, K!  That's huge!".  And ordered five gallons of foundation in an attempt to cover my extremely red face.
    Of course, as I thought about this later, I was so glad I gave the response I did.  The temptation to shout: "What on earth are YOU doing????" and roll my eyes was strong but I couldn't bear to make her feel like she really did something wrong.  I chuckled to myself, thinking how confusing it is to be a kid and to try and figure this weird world out.  I could so see Katherine eyeing a huge basket of Q-tips and being so proud of herself for cleaning her ears on her own.  How deflating it would have been for me to have crushed her at that point.  It was most definitely the right choice to allow my ego to take the beating instead.
    Seeing the world through the eyes of children is an experience in and of itself.  I am consistently amazed at the rapid pace by which Katherine is able to process things.  Her mind is so much quicker now, noticeably more so than even a mere six months ago.  On the way to church last Sunday, she came out of nowhere with this whopper: "Mom, where is heaven?"  Ummm..... and I'm a theology teacher.  C'mon, Moll, you gotta be able to answer this one, huh?  After numerous stutters, Katherine tried to help me out: "Is it in the sky?" she asked.  I thought that was interesting that she naturally went to the sky.  It is, after all, where many of our ancestors truly thought heaven was- thus, the popular reference to the sky being "the heavens."  But I was struggling to know whether or not I should just stay simple and familiar ("yes, Katherine, it's in the sky") or try to be a little more accurate without being fearful ("we have no earthly idea where heaven is--- Pope John Paul made mention once that it was more of a state of being than an actual place").  Calm down, I didn't actually tell her that.

     I ended up just saying "Katherine, heaven is where Jesus is, and when people die Jesus comes and gets them and takes them there but we don't really know where it is until we die."  Of course, that satisfied her for about twenty seconds.  Then it was "Does He fly to us or does He walk to our house?  Does He have a car?  How does He know where I live?"   I was on the hot seat but trying not to let it look like I was.  I was slightly overwhelmed with trying to help a three year old understand "mystery" (which, by the way, is pretty much impossible) and yet give her the answers to her questions.  Three year olds are very used to getting answers.  Why is the grass green?  Well, cutie pie, there's something called chlorophyll.  Why is the sun hot?  It's basically a giant ball of fire.  And so on and so on.  But when it comes to Jesus, well, there's a lot that cannot be explained so easily.  And my three year old finds that frustrating at times.  And I'm right there with her.
     It seems like the trend in our culture is the quick-fix, the one-liner, the snappy comeback.  If you can't fully explain yourself in a five minute interview that will be edited down to three, well then you must not know what you're talking about.  You're an idiot.  You're hanging onto archaic beliefs- I mean, this is the 21st century, people 
(No. Way.  By golly, let me go ahead and pull my Laura Ingalls apron off and undo my double braids down the side).  Can you tell that last one makes me want to stick shards of glass in my eye?  Okay, sometimes I want to stick it in their eye, yes, but Laura Ingalls would never.  And I'm still way back in the 1800's, thank you.

     It's where people of faith, people who know Jesus is not the God-Man of the snappy comeback, struggle.  Because it's a whole world-view we're talking about- not just the controversial issue of the day.  And it makes me mad when Catholics get a bad rap.  Like, super mad.  People aim their witty arrows at the various beliefs of a two thousand year old Church and try to mock it with snippets of pseudo-sense.  The deepest one goes in evaluating the moral essence of an issue is "Does it make me happy?" and if the answer is in the affirmative, well then, by all means it's a green light.
    In the frustration we encounter in trying to explain ourselves to a world we are increasingly becoming an alien to, we have to be grateful.  Grateful that we have been to the deep, and it's beautiful.  Grateful that, even though we might lose the battle of witty conversation, we will win the war of lasting value and meaning.  We know, even though its still a daily struggle, that to seek the pleasure and happiness of self is often nothing more than a clever maze, taking you down roads that lead to the familiar dead end.  It's the epitome of the smoke and mirrors.  How could it be wrong to go fully in the direction of personal satisfaction?  Doesn't God want me to be happy?

      And again, on a Facebook status or in the comments status under a Yahoo story about God-only-knows-what, it's hard to put the one-liner:  "Of course God wants you to be happy....sort of" or "God wants you to be holy and to find happiness in that" or some other clincher that will transmit profound theological truths and not bore in the shockingly short process.  It just doesn't happen.  I'm not saying profound things can't be said in a line or two but to deal with complex issues in superficial ways is almost always going to be found entirely insufficient.  But, I'll be damned if I don't try.  I am not exactly known to let controversial issues slide by the wayside, if you know what I mean.  I find it nearly impossible NOT to say something on a raging controversial Facebook thread.  The more cutthroat the posts, the more I feel the unbelievable urge to hoist my neck on the chopping block.  But I'm here to tell you it's insufficient.  It's twisted.  It's the speech into the microphone as the ship is going down, only to lose electricity as you come upon your most important point. Galling, I tell you.
    The mystery remains.  For a three year old.  For me.  Even what we do know sometimes can't be communicated in the most comprehensive of rebuttals.  Whatever.  We'll never have all the answers.  Will Jesus come and get you in His Cadillac, Katherine?  He just might.  I have no idea.  Does He know where you live?  Most certainly.  You're his daughter and He keeps a vigilant check on all His girls.  Does God want you to be happy?  Read up.  It's the best, most concise, answer I can give.  Read the whole Bible and get someone who knows a whole lot about the Bible to answer your questions and then you tell me.  Don't read "101 Bible Verses that Seem to Point to the Fact that Yes, God DOES Want Nothing But Our Happiness" or "Five Thousand Ways to Distort Everything in the Bible to Fit the New Religion You Just Founded Upon Yourself."

 Those are my answers to the hostile crowd.  Confused about contraception?  Read.  Think the Church is anti-science because of its embryonic stem-cell stance?  Read.  Think the Church treats women like trash?  Read.  And after you're done reading everything you can find your hands on, talk to someone.  Someone who knows a lot.  Someone who seems to think deeply and still thinks differently from you.  I'm not saying you'll change your mind.  Far from it.  But you might think we're pretty modern for wearing aprons and braids.  You just might be surprised that we, indeed, are thinking.  We're not idiots.  We're not your crazy cousins that just haven't quite finished evolving yet.  We just take a lot longer to get to know.  We are a people of the coffeehouse, not the Twitter feed.


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