As I read the Old and New Testaments I am struck by the awareness therein of our lives being connected with cosmic powers, angels and archangels, heavenly principalities and powers, and the groaning of creation. It’s too radical, too uncontrolled for many of us, so we build churches which are the safest possible places in which to escape God. We pin him down, far more painfully than he was nailed to the cross, so that he is rational and comprehensible and like us, and even more unreal. And that won’t do. That will not get me through death and danger and pain, nor life and freedom and joy. ~ Madeleine L’Engle
Bud had a Confirmation retreat today. At the end of the day, families were invited to join the Confirmation class for Mass. As his mom and I arrived, he saw us from the corner of his eye. He turned his head and mouthed “Did you have to?” and faced forward. It was a brief performance for his friends, whose parents were also present.
His Confirmation day approaches. The question I ask is, “Is he ready?” I wonder if he is ready to make an adult commitment to his faith. I don’t know. While he and I pray every night before he goes to sleep, I worry that faith and Church remain largely an obligation where God is pinned down to the hour or so of Sunday liturgy. I want him to realize something of what L’Engle is pointing to and which Annie Dillard describes in her book Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters:
The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or the waking god may draw us to where we can never return.
I have been asking him, “Do you want to do this?” The question is ironic. Having studied Theology at the graduate level, I desperately want him to say yes in reply. I laugh at myself too because I know that when I was his age I only went to church for one reason. Madonna. Not Madonna Louise Ciccone . Rather, the Madonna who sat with her family in the pew behind mine. I went to Church so I could turn at required time, say, “Peace be with you” and shake her hand. At thirteen, that was as close as I got to the girl I had a crush on. Bud is already a better man than I was at his age. His response to my question is consistent. He says, “I don’t know.”
With those three words, my heart swells. At some level readiness is a real question. It may not be L’Engle or Dillard real–or maybe it is–but it’s there. I am proud of his “I don’t know.” I am proud of him. I bet God is too.