Thursday, March 7, 2013

My God is Santa Claus

Every now and then I pause and question my faith, and then I question why I am sending my kids to Catholic School. It would save us thousands of dollars each year if we sent them to the local public school. It would help avoid the blank stares I give when my kids ask me questions I can't answer about Catholicism. And it would certainly make me *feel* like less of a hypocrite. Lord knows (no pun intended) I breezed through CCD without a care for any of it and haven't confessed a sin since 1986.

I've written about this struggle before, but from a different view. Now that Abby has spent 5 years in her school, I'm forced to look at it from the view of of my children. What does going to Catholic school mean to them...not what do *I* want them to get out of it. What does all of the studying of religion provide them on a daily basis? Does it steer their decision-making? Do they even think much about it?

Recently, my daughter had a sobbing meltdown in her room before bed. We had gone to church that Sunday and given the Easter season, there may have been talk of death more than normal - I was too busy with my own insecurities thinking that every parishioner there (it was a full house I tell ya) KNEW I hadn't been to church...well...EVER when you really think about it. So later on when she was inconsolable talking about her fear of dying...her fear of never "seeing" anyone again...her fear of growing up, I was stunned. She said they were talking about all the dead people in church. What? I was clearly not listening.

Then it kept on. She was asking me where her soul was? Was it really inside her? How did I know? I panicked. I assumed she'd never question it since she was spending endless hours at school "learning" about it. I guess I just thought she'd accept it until she got much older and could understand the complexity of it all.

I calmed her down and tried to explain that God didn't want her worrying about what happens next, but wants her to enjoy every moment of now. He wants her savor every minute with friends, family and explore all of the wonderful things that can be! And then she said it....

"What if there is no God....?"

How do you believe in someone or something you can visually see? How do you hold onto hope that when your body stops working (or in her words "your eyes rot") that there really is a final resting place in heaven?

Then it sort of hit me. Just because she's learning more than I ever did about her faith, doesn't automatically mean she's comforted by it.

And so I began to think about my belief in God again. And I realized that my God is like Santa Claus. I never saw Santa Claus as a child, but of course he was real. As a child you want to believe SO BADLY in the enchantment of it all...relish in the wondrous joy that an unseen force loves all the good you do day after day and you are rewarded beyond your imagination on that one you behave and do good and be good and make smart choices. It's the blind faith in something.

Growing older brings certain realities about Santa Claus, and it also brings certain realities about God. There is a jaded quality that uncontrollably emerges as we age - the horror on the news. The life experiences that break you down just a little bit. How can this happen? What is going on?

But just like your youth, there is also an innocence that comes with getting older. The innocence in knowing that your time spent has done some good. Has made some difference. Has had a real impact so when that one day arrives, you just way or the other, you know. And you can be at peace with that - regardless of what you believe will come next.

So when Abby asked me to "come back when your dead and whisper in my head to let me know you can see me", I'm remaining hopeful that is many, many, many years from now and she won't need any whispering. She'll hold onto her faith. She'll believe what she's been taught is good and wonderful and it will guide her to continue to do great things. And when she finds out about Santa Claus, she'll be ready. And when she figures out her own relationship with God, she'll be ready. I'm just proud, amidst the tears, that she's asking questions and talking to ME about her fears. I'll continue to just wrap my arms around her as many times as she'll let me. But don't ask me if I completely believe in God yet. I'm not *that* old. I still have a lot of questions myself...and I'm sure I'll know when I'm ready.