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Monday, November 10, 2008

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Very Near


By almost any standard definition, I am a woeful Christian. I attend (irregularly) a liberal-leaning, liturgical church, because I love ceremony, metaphor and story, and because it orders my otherwise unbridled time. I like how it forces me into community with people I might else not associate with. I like singing the hymns and I like communion. When I can't get behind a single article of faith, I can always get behind the simple truth that "we many are one body, because we all share one bread, one cup."

Neither is my participation merely intellectual, though I am glad to have found a church where intellect is welcome. I have had a few true, numinous moments in the pew and on the altar step, when, like Carl Jung, I didn't believe, I knew.

But if someone were to ask me about my relationship with Jesus Christ, I would quite frankly choke. Relationship? Uh. Um.

Maybe all the gory Jesuses of my Catholic childhood spooked me. Everywhere I looked at school and church there was a crucified, bleeding Jesus, whom the priests and nuns assured, died horribly because of me.

It was a bit off-putting.

I know a lot about Jesus. I'm just not very Jesus-y. The word "Jesus" doesn't exactly roll off my tongue. He's not really part of my vernacular.

So I was surprised yesterday how natural it was to reach for some of the words ascribed to him when my children were speculating about the nature of heaven.

"Maybe you come back and live in a different form," my seven-year-old posited.

"Maybe it's another dimension," my nine-year-old said. "Maybe heaven is like a wormhole that brings you really close to God, really quick."

"Maybe God is already really close," I offered. "Jesus said the kingdom of heaven was very near."

"Maybe it's all around us!"

"Maybe," I said. Someday I will tell them— and you—about one of my numinous moments on a New Brunswick beach when I vividly knew this to be true.

My nine-year-old was caught up in the quantum grandeur.

"Maybe God is so big, he's holding our whole universe in his hand."

Well, it's nice to think something or someone has everything well in hand. It's only natural to want your god to be mighty. No half-assed, minor deities for me, thanks. In phone trees and in prayer, I much prefer directing my complaints to whomever's in charge.

Mighty is good. Especially when you are small. But I wanted them to know something else.

"Know what else Jesus said?"


"He said that God loves us so much, every hair on our heads is counted."

Those words always remind me of the first few days after each of my children was born—the dreamy, long moments spent gazing over every cuticle, every fold of skin.

"I love you more than I could love anyone, or anyone could love you, and I don't know how many hairs are on your heads. So maybe God is not just big and everywhere, but so close to you, he can count your hairs."

Maybe he loves to bend over you and breathe in your hair in the mornings, I thought. Maybe she smoothes your hair at night when you are asleep.

But I don't want to interject my ideas —or even Jesus' ideas— about God too much in their questioning. I want them to keep asking and keep imagining new answers. I think the Jesus of my understanding, the one who said a person needs to think like a child in order to understand heaven, would back me up.

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Blogger Chris said...

I think he'd back you up too. That was wonderful.

4:10 PM  
Blogger Geoff Meeker said...

That was a lovely bit of writing. Choked me up a little. And it's not the first time that's happened, for me and, I suspect, many others who make regular pilgrimage here.

I confess to being atheist. It wasn't a choice made consciously. I was born that way. But, if I were to join a church, it would definitely be one like yours!

5:03 PM  
Blogger Tere said...

I think your children are very lucky. I loved your heartfelt words.

5:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Think or become? Near or nearer than? (Just wondering.)

8:31 PM  
Blogger Neil said...

That was nice. But it made me wonder if male pattern baldness was God's way of making all that hair counting a little bit easier.

8:46 PM  
Blogger Aimee Greeblemonkey said...

What a lovely post. And that is coming from an agnostic.

10:12 PM  
Blogger unique_stephen said...

I'm a hard edged robust atheist. but I do like the charm and message of simple Christianity

7:06 AM  
Blogger Megling said...

perfect. just lovely. My "two halves" (the liberal political side and the newly passionate Christian side) struggle something fierce some days. But I think this speaks to the simplicity and beauty that is what it is to be faithful...

9:02 AM  
Blogger Katy said...

One year I taught a Sunday School class of six year olds, and asked them what they thought God was like. One boy answered, without hesitation, "God lives in my attic." He was so sure of himself, it made me miss the days when I could just believe something like that without questioning it.

6:28 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

Very nice. I wish I could be so simple and clear when trying to talk about my Jesus-y faith.

8:38 PM  
Blogger Marcie said...

Excellet post.

I've been reading for awhile, but haven't commented. (I just set up a google account to comment!)

I really enjoy reading your blog, it's one of my favourites.

I'm from Cape Breton and I love that you're from Newfoundland. Just a boat ride away.

You're a great writer and I'll be in line to buy your book.

All the best.

7:20 AM  
Blogger Jody said...

Beautiful post.

7:50 AM  
Blogger anndeo said...

Exactly! Your post made me feel good.

10:57 AM  
Blogger Mr. Poopie said...

It was great to believe things with such conviction no? Great post, here's a similar one I wrote a little while ago. Enjoy!

2:07 PM  
Blogger littlepurplecow said...

Enjoyed your path of thought here. I love how you encourage your children to explore and discover.

10:54 PM  
Blogger She She said...

I wish I still had my faith. I wish I could will it back. Your children's is beautiful.

12:59 PM  
Blogger Timmy said...

Such beautiful writing!! Believe me, I can relate with the "I didn't believe, I knew" thing. Except for me, it is all of the time. And lately, I have been horrible, but I still know He's there, everywhere. I'm trying to get back on track. Lately it has been taking a couple seconds too long to realize what is good and what is bad for myself and those around me. I'm about to click publish and then add you to my blogroll. :]

9:23 PM  
Blogger mjacquet11 said...

Wonderful post - made me teary eyed. Husband came in and said what wrong. Read it and you'll see. He did and he did.

10:01 PM  

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