Thursday, October 27, 2011

Lessons from a Lunch Box

In the last five months, since our community was struck by a tornado, there have been many conversations about the role of God.

Does God cause natural disasters or are they just part of nature?

How do we use the word blessing in the midst of such events? What are the implications of claiming blessing when my house was not destroyed, life was not ended, etc?

Does God really choose to be in control? Is it enough for God to be present?

Do bad things happen to bring about good outcomes or do good outcomes occur even in the face of bad things?

Is what we view as bad really bad or is it good in some bigger picture way?

In the midst of one of these conversations, I shared this story...

One recent afternoon, I picked up my kindergartener as I do nearly every afternoon. He got in the car and we began talking about his day. What did he learn? Who did he play with during recess? Was the lunch I packed okay?

(Cue sobbing)

It seemed he had left his lunch box at school instead of bringing it home.

Although this child of mine takes many things in stride, it is not unusual for the seemingly smallest thing to set him off and cause a major crisis. On that day, it was the lunch box left behind.

My first thought was to keep driving, tell him that it would be there tomorrow, remind him that he needed to be more responsible.

But before doing any of that, I thought better.

No, the lack of lunch box was not a crisis to me. Yes, it really would be fine if we got it the next day. (He does after all mark the lunch calendar ahead of time to indicate whether he is taking his lunch or eating school lunch and the next day was a school lunch day.)

But to him it mattered.

So, I pulled over and asked him to take a deep breath. How could we handle this, I asked. After a few deep breaths and some conversation, we came to the conclusion that we could go park, walk into the school and retrieve the lunch box.

As we walked back to the car, lunch box in his hand, other hand wiping the last evidence of his tears from his face, it seemed worth the extra trouble.

No, the lack of lunch box was not a crisis to me. In the big picture of his life, the forgotten lunch box will not really matter. But, how I respond does matter. Considering his feelings, whether they make sense to me or not, does matter. Validating his experience as real does matter.

Does God have some bigger view that allows for an understanding that many of our crises are really just minor bumps in the road? That may very well be. I simply do not know. But what I do believe is that even if this is true, God stands with us in the midst of our joy and our pain, mourning or celebrating along side us, validating our experience and reminding us that we matter.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

When It's Just Not So Black and White

I look at the title I just assigned to this entry and I laugh.

Is it ever black and white?

See, I'm one of those people who lives in the gray...who asks just one more question...who wants room to change her mind and doesn't feel like doing so requires an apology...who believes that there is a new understanding to be embraced just around the corner.

At some level I do understand that there is reward in black and white (at least for some people). There is reward in knowing (or thinking you know) something for making declarations without considering the thought that you are wrong. I get that that works for some people, but it doesn't work for me.

I listen to so many statements made by people of faith about families and I can't help but say it's not always black and white. You know the statements I'm talking about...

A woman's place is in the home. But what about the women I know who are gifted and called to vocations outside the home? What about the men I know who are gifted and called to work at home? What about families I know who are doing just great with two working parents.

The man is the head of the household. But what about families where the woman is the one gifted for spiritual leadership? And what about the reality that the first assignment of "head" to the man was given in Genesis as punishment for sin rather than the created ideal?

Gay people shouldn't be allowed to marry or have children. But what about the gay couples I know whose relationships are loving, compassionate, caring, generous, and forgiving? What about the straight couples I know whose relationships are full of hatred, laced with adultery, riddled with resentment? Why does having different body parts make a relationship okay even when nothing else about it is good? Why does having the same body parts make a relationship wrong even if it fulfills God's desires in every other way?

Children should be seen and not heard. Then why did Jesus call them? Why did he lift them up as examples for the receiving of the kingdom?

There are so many voices that would like people to believe that the downfall of our society (you did know we're in a downfall, right?) is due to: women working outside the home or gay relationships or children not knowing their place.

And yet I can't help but wonder if the most detrimental things in our society aren't hatred and fear. I can't help but wonder if maybe the answers aren't bound in neat packages where each family resembles the Cleavers (of Leave It to Beaver fame) but instead maybe the answers lie in love, in discernment, in discovering God's will for individuals, for families, in the sacred journey of discovering our true selves and respecting who God created us enough to become that person.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Fiction or Non-fiction

Tonight (while avoiding going to bed) my five-year-old (who had already been told to return to his bed at least three times) came out to the dining room where the following conversation took place:

Him: Mom, one other thing. "Spooky Buddies" - you know, the movie - is that fiction or non-fiction?

Me: You learned something new today, didn't you? Was that in library time?

Him: (proudly) Yes!

Me: So, what is fiction and what is non-fiction?

Him: Non-fiction is when it's real. And fiction is when it's fake.

Me: (thinking someday - when he's more than five - we'll have conversations about how fiction isn't always fake and non-fiction isn't always as true as it claims to be, how Truth can be found in both and isn't always where we assume, etc, etc) So, what is "Spooky Buddies"?

Him: (thinking) Fiction!

Him: What about...

Me: Go to bed! We can talk about others tomorrow.

I love knowing what he learned and I love when he wants to share...

even if it's really all about avoiding bedtime!