Sunday, February 22, 2009

God vs. Darwin

No, it’s not what you think, though I did get your attention, didn’t I? Not being a creationist, I fully embrace the theory of evolution. In fact, I want to get a Darwin Fish and a Christian Fish and put them nose-to-nose on the back of my car with a heart over their heads. But I digress…

I’m talking about my son.  Specifically, his occasional complete lack of impulse control. As a parent, it’s frightening to know that despite his being a smart, cautious boy who is afraid of getting hurt or dirty, he sometimes does incredibly stupid things. For instance, in a manic energy one evening, he put on a hat, ran through the house at top speed and then launched himself headfirst into our big comfy chair. Sure, it’s overstuffed and soft (and, hey, he was wearing a hat). But he hit it so hard that he jammed his neck and knocked the wind out of himself, terrifying us both.

Then there was the fine, early spring day when he completely disregarded his fear of water and cautiousness around the pond and, at the casual suggestion of a friend, walked out onto the ice. Of course, within moments he slipped and fell headlong into the open water beyond. I aged ten years in about fifteen seconds that day.

As a Christian, I firmly believe that God loves my son and is watching out for him. As a parent, I firmly believe it’s my job to be God’s hands and voice in teaching my son some common sense. As a woman, I firmly believe there is some massive defect in male DNA that causes otherwise completely rational children to do unbelievably moronic things.

My grandfather soaped the end of the trolley tracks near his home so the streetcar couldn’t stop at the end of its run. My father crawled through a cement drainage pipe with NO knowledge of how long it was or where it led. My brother wandered out of the house at 4am in the snow without a coat because some kid said if he went to the school at midnight he’d see Big Foot. I suppose I could chalk it up to the genetics from my side of the family, but I’ve heard plenty of similar stories about my husband and his brother that I’m not at liberty to publish.

Taking pot shots at easy targets aside, the real question for me is how to reconcile my faith that God loves and cares for people with the basic human instinct to try dumb things. In all the above examples, the boy in question lived to tell the tale so that may, in itself, be proof of a loving and merciful God. But there are plenty of tragic tales to be told to make one wonder, “Well, why didn’t God like that kid?”

I have no illusions that I can sort this out in a blog entry when there’s an entire industry working to find out “why bad things happen to good people,” or at least, to sell their own ideas about it. I just pray to God for whatever I need to see my little boy into adulthood. After that, all I can do is hope he doesn’t wind up on the annual “Darwin Awards” list.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Unborrowed Light

I came across this phrase in a hymn a couple of Sundays ago and it near leapt off the page at me. Something about its profound simplicity, its clarity yet mystery. Just the very words themselves appealed to me in a way I’m not sure I can explain. I wondered why I had never encountered them before.

A little internet research revealed that the hymn’s author, Joseph A. Robinson, was not the first to use the phrase when he wrote “’Tis Good, Lord, to Be Here” in 1888. The same pairing of words appears in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Twice Told Tales more than fifty years prior. In the late 1600s, a Dr. Charles Scarborough used the term in a rather intemperate elegy to English poet Abraham Cowley and I also found the phrase in Shakespeare (Love’s Labors Lost) and a translation of an ancient Hindu text.

It’s probable that dozens, if not hundreds, of other writers have felt a similar reaction to these two simple words in conjunction and have written articles and blog entries on the idea. But I’m not going for originality here. I’m just enjoying my own astonishment. Because the point is that nothing human is truly original. No matter how brilliant or insightful or humorous something I’ve written may be, any light that shines from me is borrowed.

Now, there’s a humbling concept for you. Shakespeare got it wrong when he wrote of the stars shining with unborrowed light—even their light is borrowed. But at the same time, what a relief! To know that there is only one source of truly unborrowed light in all of existence is liberating! I don’t have to revolutionize the way anyone looks at the world. I only have to honestly examine my daily walk with God and reflect on it (no pun intended ☺). If it connects with another person, it’s because God lent me a little illumination to pass on to the world around me.  Cool.