When you’re a mom, some of the things that come out of your mouth may sound strange: “Don’t chew on Jesus,” “Will you just hurry up and poop?”, and “Stop putting chicken on your head!”, are some of my greatest hits.
As I was getting my daughter ready for bed the other night, thinking about what I wanted to read to her (praying she wouldn’t mention Minnie, as in The Mouse), the Beatitudes of Jesus came to mind. I realized then that I’ve spent so much time reading and singing to her and teaching her the things she will need to know to get on here–like letters and numbers, saying “thank you” and not littering–that I hadn’t focused much on the religious part of her education.
Thinking back, that’s exactly how my parents raised me. For them, church was something you needed if you were an ass.
When I was in high school in the nineties, a lot of kids were self-proclaimed “Jesus freaks,” wearing “True Love Waits” rings and WWJD bracelets. There was a lot of talk about the rapture and born-again virginity. Church was their social life, Praise and Worship music their vibe. Some of them even carried their Bibles around at school.
Just as Felicity (remember that WB show?) followed a boy to college, I, a freshman, followed a senior boy to his church. One evening, after service had ended, we sat in a pew as he led me through the salvation prayer, and I was like, “That’s it? Are you sure? It’s that easy?”
I had been expecting a feeling–a total transformation like Saul’s to Paul–and now I wonder when Jesus told Doubting Thomas that (and I paraphrase) blessed are they who don’t see but believe, that “see” could also apply to “feel.”
Four years later, I joined the Mormon Church. All the good feelings I had expected to feel when I had gotten saved, I felt then, but who isn’t going to feel good when they’re around so many friendly people who open their hearts and homes? Even though it’s been years since I sent my name to Salt Lake to be expunged (er, removed) from the records, I will admit that the Church made me a more spiritual person.
In the Church, I was taught that the glory of God is intelligence and yet, according to these same people, for those who had mental challenges, the devil could not touch them.
To my understanding, a lack of mental capacity (e.g. intelligence) saved a soul. It seems contradictory, and yet, it somehow makes sense to me.
As I gaze upon my child, I see that light and intelligence. She knows so much more than she communicates, which can be frustrating, but I have learned to overcome the need to explain why she is the way she is to people who don’t know her–to explain why she doesn’t respond when people ask her her name–but then, I have had several people who’ve taken one look at her and ask if she’s autistic.
I may never know how much she understands, but I do know that I will teach her everything I know and believe, whether it’s that adverbs are the enemy of good writing or that respect doesn’t have to be earned but it can be lost. (You don’t disrespect people until they “earn” your respect.)
I’ve striven so much to give her a magical childhood through imagination and storytelling. (Children’s author, Nancy Tillman, is a master at this.) Nearly every night, since my mom passed from this earth, I ask my daughter to tell Grandma “good-night” and “I love you” and to blow her a kiss. And then I seemingly catch that kiss in midair, letting her open my hand and take it; sometimes I place my palm on the crown of her head–a blessing from Heaven.
Of course, I don’t really know how things work up there, but part of parenting, for me, has always been teaching truths with just a pinch of magic.
C.S. Lewis did that very thing with his Narnia series, just as I will someday do with mine.