I always find a visual helps me better appreciate stories, so the following conversations took place between me and the kid on the right:
Yes, the one singing into a karaoke machine with the six-shooter conspicuously positioned in front—well, you can see it. That’s what happens late on New Year’s Eve when a kid has taken down one too many Caprisuns. Funny how this is cute for a four year old, but if I was caught on film singing karaoke while wearing a side (or front) arm after consuming too many mood altering beverages on New Year’s Eve, you’d probably describe it as something other than cute. But that’s not the point of this post. Well, it’s not supposed to be, but I won’t be surprised if it hijacks the original point.
So anyway, this is my first offspring, and he’s not quite four and a half. He’s full of questions and as I explained here and here, an endless supply of stories and wisdom related to Star Wars. He’s never really seen the movies, but this crazy video game follows the story line pretty closely, so I’m repeatedly surprised to hear him tell me something about the white robot turning on his light so Princess Leia could tell that other guy with the "light saver," to (in Leia voice), "Help me…you’re my only help" and such. I’m not kidding – roughly 40 percent of our conversations over the past week or two have been about Luke, Han, Leia, and Chewy. We run into his friends Liam and Burke at the playground and he instantly declares himself Han, delegates Luke’s identity to Liam, and one or both of them decide Burke (who is also a boy) will be Leia, much to their father Pepe’s chagrin. With a little intervention, a compromise is reached and Burke is upgraded to Chewy. But that’s not the point of this either.
The point is to document, as much for my own sake as yours, more of the incomparable perspective this kid injects into my life over and over again. Sometimes I forget this feature is built into my life.
As I mentioned before, there is much discussion these days about God around here. The latest feature in this area has been questions about why God made various things:
Why did God make bugs?
Why did God make fingernails?
Why did God make carrots?
Why did God make rain?
Why did God make boogers?
I can usually come up with a passable answer to most of these, and several of them can be handled with a sort of "circle of life" formula: God made it rain so the grass and trees will grow so the bugs will have a place to live. God made bugs so the birds will have something to eat. And so on. I feel like I’m lying a little when I say good things about carrots, but you do what you have to do to get healthy food in the kid. I’ve officially deferred the boogers question to our friend Laura, who is a second year medical student we occasionally call for unofficial advice to spare ourselves a $25 copay.
Anyway, I went to pick him up from a birthday party tonight, and we made a late trip to Kroger (where, if you aren’t careful, you’ll be told via a clearly marked price tag that a 12-pack of Welch’s grape soda costs $2.50 and then be charged $3.89 at the register.) On our way home, I began to lament to my son that I was very tired from the day. I even listed off for him all the admirable things I’d done today to make me tired.
He listened graciously, sighed, and said, "Yeah, I know Dad. I’ve had a really long day." It was one of those moments where you wonder when he learned to use a fairly grown up, hyperbolic phrase properly. So I asked, "Aiden, what made your day so long?" His answer: "God made it so long, Dad." Impressed, I supplement my question with "I mean why was your day long?" Undeterred he responds, "God made it so long so I’d have lots of time to play with my friends, play with Ella, play Star Wars, go to Hudson’s party. ‘Cause God wants me to have lots of fun, so he made my day really long."
Like I said. Perspective.
Oh, and if you made it this far, as a bonus I offer you low quality video footage (taken with my phone) of the above photo. The still photo is actually a lie insomuch as it hints that Aiden is the most entertaining person in that scene. The real star was rk’s boy Sam, who sang one of the most heartfelt unintelligible songs I’ve ever heard. Enjoy (by right clicking and choosing "save as…")
If you haven’t seen Craig Ferguson speak about Britney, booze, self-medicating, and the radical inversion of the patterns of this world, spend your next 15 minutes here.
And then this…
Amy and I watch probably 90% of our television in delay. The DVR has changed everything. It’s not unusual for us to be several episodes behind on any of the handful of shows we watch. This suits me fine since I have what may be a diagnosable addiction to delayed gratification (roll that one around for a little bit). The only downside is avoiding conversations about Lost and The Office among friends.
Anyway, we also watch very few commercials, which likewise pleases me (and this time with no psychological side effects). What I have seen lately seems to indicate that corporate marketing folks these days are more Two and a Half Men than Sports Night; more Bob Saget than Ricky Gervais. It’s good to see that somebody smart apparently still squeezes into the room now and then. (There’s a video down there for those of you using a reader that doesn’t show such things.)
I do not mean that everyone is an expert on God. I would argue that no one, regardless of title or training, is that. Some are experts on religion or on particular ways of thinking about God (man made systems all), but a true expert on God I’ve yet to meet. Nonetheless, I believe we are all theologians. What I mean by this is that each of us (humans, I mean), no matter our level of intentionality, is wondering, believing, speculating, reacting, doubting, pursuing, hoping, questioning (and on and on) with respect to God. I, of course, capitalize the word because I am persuaded that this particular journey every person is on is related to the God. However, use "god" or "higher power" or whatever term you prefer, and I submit my assertion stands. From the most adamant atheist to the best behaved fundamentalist, we’re all developing a theology as we move through life.
Even if we rarely consciously think or speak of the supernatural or divine, how we live and think demonstrates a particular orientation toward and understanding of what is and is not going on beyond us and inside us. Many religious systems (terminology I use for the sake of familiar communication, even though I believe religious systems and God have less to do with one another than we’re trained to believe) suggest that our unspoken theology is more reliable than what our mouths profess.
But none of that is terribly revolutionary. What is revolutionary, to me, is that I have had this fascinating reality thrust in front of me in the form of a four year-old boy. I am witnessing, one day at a time and in great detail, the development of one human’s theology (well, his everything, but this is one of the parts that matters most to me). And more daunting than the witnessing is the participating — this kid is bouncing his ideas, speculation, and questions off of me and Amy at every turn.
Just tonight over dinner we discussed everything from why God is invisible to the genealogy of Jesus, all at his prompting. I need to brush up on the first 17 verses of the New Testament so I’m ready when his curiosity expands beyond two generations. Last year I wrote about being with my grandmother when she died. She spent her final days a mile from us, and Aiden saw her frequently in that time. We sometimes drive past the home where she was several times a day, and we’ve had countless conversations about life, death, and Mamaw. His little wheels turn a little more deliberately when we talk about these things. I can see it happening, and it’s thrilling and overwhelming and absolutely spellbinding for me.
Aiden: Jesus didn’t have a mom and dad, right?
Me: Well yeah, he did actually. You know that, I think. His mom was Mary and…
Aiden: Yeah, and Joseph was his dad. I remember.
Aiden: And Mary and Joseph weren’t afraid, right?
Me: I don’t know. I would imagine that they–
Aiden: No, they weren’t afraid. Just like Princess Leia wasn’t afraid.
Me: (Nodding) Great.
Like I said, everyone is a theologian, and that process unfolds differently for all of us. My response to Aiden’s unfolding theology (which, in case I’m not being clear, is not about his proper intellectual response to a list of pre-articulated doctrines but about his spirit’s response to the life-altering reality of God’s Good News) matters. I want to love him enough to guide him well and trust God enough to not crush his spirit. It seems to me that programming and pushing him to a very particular pre-determined outcome would, indeed, be a crushing of his spirit. Likewise, abdicating my role as one of his two primary spiritual directors and capitulating to the countless other voices competing for his affection and allegiance would be depriving him of the fullest expression of my love. I want to let him be Aiden, following the Voice he hears while protecting, counseling, and correcting him when love and truth demand as much. This, it turns out, is not a science. It is a dirty, hilarious, tear-inducing art. However, I’ll be damned (and perhaps literally) if I’m going to refuse to pick up the brush even if some days I can’t find the paint.
For further readings on this journey, I refer to my friend Pepe, who has penned an excellent piece on his agenda for his boys. To this I say, "YES!"