Friday, June 8, 2012

Faith Like a Rock

Unloading the dryer this morning, I found the source of last night’s clanging. I put a load in when I went to bed and soon heard a distinctive “ping” acknowledging the fact that someone left something in a pocket of the jeans that were tumbling dry late in to the night. I was already snuggled in, the house shut up tight, so I ignored the pinging. I figured it was a marble from my youngest or a rock from my contemplative oldest child who picks up stones to roll around in his hand as he listens to his ipod.

It wasn’t a marble and it wasn’t a rock. Well, actually it was supposed to be a rock, but a synthetic one. It was brown with green mottled markings. The top was lumpy, but the back smooth and flat and obviously machined. I’d guess there are thousands just like it, but I have no idea where it came from or whose pocket it fell out of. On the top of the rock the word, “faith” was stamped, which leads me to believe it was a gift from a Sunday school class. My kids haven’t been to Sunday School in at least a month, so someone has been carrying this inspirational manufactured stone around for awhile.

I pocketed the rock, but it’s been nagging at my conscience all day. I can’t help but wonder which child will claim it, but even more so, I wonder how that child interprets the rock’s message. “Faith”, as in have faith in God or “faith” as in have faith in yourself or “faith” as in have faith that everything will be okay? Or, if it belongs to the nine-year-old who confessed recently that he has no idea what they’re talking about in Sunday School, it might mean nothing other than a stone that would be great for tossing at the chickens to see them run.

What do my children think of the word faith? What do they understand about it? Do they have faith? As a former Youth Minister, you’d think my kids would be Sunday School standouts, but ironically they would more easily be labeled Sunday School slackers. I’ve always believed that everyone’s faith is between that person and God. I wouldn’t presume to tell anyone what to believe. My own kids included in that everyone.

But I hope I have instilled in them that they should believe something. We say grace before dinner each night and I’ve prayed with all three when I tucked them in to bed when they were little. The nine-year-old won’t go to sleep without his prayers – one with Daddy and one with me. If we are away, he’ll call on the phone and insist we say prayer with him long-distance. My husband has said prayer with him while riding in a crowded taxi cab in Bejing and I once recited a prayer with him while riding on a bus with suddenly quiet drunk people on our way home from an afternoon and evening in the honky-tonks of Nashville. But what does prayer mean to this child?

I hope it gives them a sense that there is something more powerful than us. I hope it gives them peace to know there’s a plan. How that “something” is interpreted has created and destroyed countries, races, lives. I would like to believe that my children see that something as benevolent, not judgmental. I think that is the belief that has driven me away from church. I want to put my faith in something that builds up, offers grace, and encourages exploration, but too many times the church demands that we parrot a set of beliefs and live, vote, and love accordingly. That doesn’t require faith, only obedience.

Faith is huge and complicated, yet remarkably simple. Carrying faith around in your pocket seems like a very reasonable religion. One that I’m hoping at least one of my children follows. Either that or he’s just waiting for the right moment to scatter the chickens.

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