Just The Facts Ma'am
“Why do we have to go to church?” This was the question posed by my 14 year old. This was an ongoing discussion in our household.
“We go because it is a way to show thanks, celebrate community and to pause in a quiet hour and reflect on the gifts we are blessed with,” I replied.
“Well, you know there is no way to prove that God really exists, not like anyone has actual irrefutable proof.”
I sighed, “Sometimes you just have to have faith. Faith in the kindness of others, faith that most people want to do good, not evil, faith that this world will somehow continue to move in a forward direction in spite of all the gloom and doom that seems to dominate the news cycle. And sometimes faith that there is a higher power at work in your life.”
With a smirk he replied, “Well maybe if they found the wooden cross and carbon dated it to exactly the time of Jesus I might believe instead of relying on stories from a book written 200 years later.” A very analytical thinker, he relied on facts, not faith to guide his thinking.
I completely understood where he was coming from. When I was his age I too was not thrilled with going to church. It did not resonate with me and seemed one more thing I was made to do by my parents. Of course I would never have had this conversation with my mom, or if I had questioned the why, she most likely would have responded with, “Because I said so, that’s why, now get in the car or we’ll be late.”
Mom was an old school, never miss mass or a holy day of obligation Catholic. Still riding the sugar rush of Halloween, we were marched off to mass Nov. 1st for All Saints Day. If Christmas fell on a Saturday we’d attend mass and be back again on Sunday. There were no two for one mass days in our household.
Later in life, after a long hiatus, I found myself back in the church. I found comfort in the familiar rituals of mass. Diane and I found a welcoming community in which we could put down spiritual roots. I finally began to understand the unwavering faith of my mom and the rock solid foundation that carried her through when the going got tough. Perhaps it takes being out on your own in the world, removed from the safe childhood bubble, to experience difficult times in which faith can be a comfort.
“Faith is believing in something that you cannot necessarily see or touch,” I said. Like love, you can’t prove love, you just have faith and know that you are loved.”
“Oh, you can prove love,” he responded, “there’s a chemical released in the brain that proves love.”
Clearly, my “you just have to believe” was not going to win against the scientific knowledge of a 14 year old who watches way too much YouTube. After all, this was the 2nd grader who, when upon observing the half eaten carrots Christmas morning said, “Why would Santa come down the chimney, take the carrots to the reindeer, let them eat half and then bring back the rest and put it on the plate?” If he was going to question the existence of jolly old St. Nick bringing him tangible presents, it was going to be tough getting him to believe in the presence of a higher power delivering a different set of gifts.
“We are blessed with so much in our lives,” I continued, “all that we have is a gift from God. Our talents, that analytical brain of yours, the amazing village/family that we have are all reasons to be grateful. I know you don’t get it or even feel it now, but I hope that the foundation we’ve laid will someday help you build a spiritual, faith filled life. We happen to give our thanks in the Catholic church, but there are certainly other paths you can take.
I hope when you grow up and have a family of your own, your foundation will guide you to show gratitude and find peace. Go to mass, meditate, be community minded, start a non-profit, help others who have less, but whatever you do, be thankful for what you have and the gifts you’ve been given.”
“Well, okay then, goodnight,” he said and with a slight, skeptical nod of his head the discussion came to an end.
Faith is tricky. You can have faith, trust faith but you cannot necessarily convince someone else to have faith. What I consider the influence of something beyond me, he calls luck. I hope that one day he’ll feel differently. Not because I want him to go to mass every Sunday, but because I want him to have faith and to believe in something that cannot be proven with a Youtube video.
The Thanksgiving Holiday is upon us and while for my kids it’s more about a lazy week of no school and pumpkin pie, I hope somewhere in those me-centered teenage brains they will understand that they are blessed and give thanks. We need to look no further than the smoke filled Northern California sky to be reminded of our blessings and the need to help others.
Whatever you have faith in, I hope it brings you comfort, joy, peace and gratitude this holiday season.
Regina Stoops is a comedian, writer, MS Warrior and Autism Mom living with her wife and three kids in the San Francisco Bay Area. Click here to subscribe to her Normal Notes blog.