Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A little more complicated :/


“Life just got a lot more complex in the last few years :/.”

That’s what she said, a student of mine, who’s experienced so much sadness recently. Spring '08 it was her sister, her little sister, who didn’t make it through operation after operation, even though the family prayed unceasingly, as did all who knew her.

Then, just last week, a good friend, a young girl, killed, shockingly, in a terrible accident.

So when this student sent me a note to acknowledge getting her essay back, she blurted out a sad assertion and typed in a contorted computer face I’d never seen before-- :/. If I hadn’t known her story, I wouldn’t have understood the key strokes; but I knew. Interpretating wasn’t rocket science.

But it’s not just that disturbed and distorted face; what stays with me is also her words—“life just got a lot more complex in the last few years. . .”

Teaching college kids means you watch ‘em mature from the sidelines. Part of me takes great joy at witnessing the demise of silly childhood. To watch kids grow into adults is a satisfying joy.

But there’s always a death. When kids become people, they shed childhoods. No matter how you look at it, death sucks, even—and maybe always—the death of silliness, the death of innocence.

Part of me cheers. Gone forever is cocky self-assurance, that la-la happy-face stuff, and a quiver full of sure-thing opinions, all that kiddishness replaced by anxiety once they discover themselves aboard a world of gray, and feel all around them, maybe for the first time, some very real doubt.

I’ve been telling myself lately that faith without doubt—like faith without works—is dead. Wish it weren’t so, but in this vale of tears, or so it seems, it is. Some doubt can be manna for the soul. It’s all over the Psalms, all over. But I just don’t care to be its agent.

Here’s Cotton Mather defending the proceedings of the Salem witchcraft trials, quoting someone he says is “a most worthy person”: “’The Mind of God in these matters, is to be carefully looked into, with due circumspection, that Satan deceive us not with his devises,. . .” That “circumspection” created certitude that put 18 accused witches to death by hanging. Like those judges in Salem could have, some of my students can use a little doubt.

That kids shed some certitude is healthy and normal—or so it seems to me. And yet there’s this tech face at the end of my student’s note-- :/.

Good kids, right before my eyes, grow up every day. And growing up’s a good thing, isn’t it? Sure it is.

For an old man like me, it’s a triumph that’s feels, at times, more than a little cheerless.

1 comment:

Janet said...

Who would've ever thought I'd be writing to you about faith and turning to the Bible for direction...but that's the first thing that came to mind when I read your post this morning.

First - I acknowledge your 'cheerlessness' at seeing the grown-up things life throws at us. It would be nice to live a life free of heavy-duty cares and doubt, and I think we can all reminisce about 'that time' when we were worry free...but, like you said - most of us would be remembering a childhood time - when our awareness of the world around us was a pint-sized bubble protected by our parents....

A few years ago - when the jewelry-making-beading craze started - my mother made me a 'salvation' bracelet. The colors of the crystals stood for sin, the blood of Christ, the water of baptism, the promise of heaven, etc. I treasure it - partly because my mom made it, partly because it's truly beautiful, and partly because of the message.

At the time, my life was pretty complicated. There is a lot of comfort in the Bible - but I wasn't looking for comfort... I was looking for solutions. I'm not much of a memorizer (there's got to be a special place in heaven for memorizers...), but I found the passage in Hebrews were Thomas said "I believe - help me believe", and I knew I could ask God for more faith. I guess that means He's built in a plan for us doubters....

My grandmother's favorite Bible passage was the 23rd Psalm and she prayed it every morning. I used to think that "yea though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death..." meant that I had a choice somehow - that IF I walked that path, God would help. I've recently come to the revelation that God knows full well we'll be walking through that Valley - his assurance is that He'll be there, and those still waters and green pastures will be waiting. Now I wear a Psalm 23 bracelet - green crystals on one strand, blue on another - in the middle... something that looks like clear, jagged (polished - it IS on a bracelet...)rocks in the middle. My Valley of the Shadow of Death isn't dark - it's part of the pathway we all have to take. I choose (with a tremendous amount of heavenly support) to take it in Joy and with faith...

Again - Theology 101 - we can do it - we just can't do it alone....