After our routine prayer before dinner one night earlier this week, you asked Mommy and me, “What does ‘Gods’ look like?”
That’s one of those classic kid questions. I love it.
Yet I was so caught off guard by your sincere question of what God looks like, that now, I couldn’t even positively tell you how I answered you.
I mean, you’ve grown up with prayer in our house: In the kitchen before meals, in front of the house before we all leave for work and school, and in the car before we go on long trips.
You’re very familiar with the concept of our family speaking to someone we can’t actually physically see.
Just tonight, while you were holding hands with us during prayer, you began whispering the words to “Ring Around The Rosie.”
I thought you were attempting to pray.
Actually, I guess you were- the best way you knew how.
Still, you have the ability to understand that God is real and invisible; unlike monsters, who you know are not real and only visible on cartoons.
I love admiring the way you are attempting to understand God; because I’m in the same boat, just about 29 years ahead of you.
Of course, speaking of years, the way I see it, time only exists as we know it because of the rate at which the Earth spins and the rate at which it rotates around the sun and the rate at which our temporary bodies age.
That’s how we measure time here on Earth.
But beyond us, greater than us living on this planet, I wonder if time really exists?
Is it true that my Italian grandfather who I was so close to growing up is actually waiting to meet us in Heaven? Or in the “Heavenly Time Zone,” will we pretty much just appear there about the same time he arrives?
So many questions I have about God and Heaven and what life really is like outside of our version of life right now.
With that being said, just know that when you asked what God looks like, it’s something I wonder too.
I think a lot of people are going to be shocked if He doesn’t have a long white beard and a robe.
People are fascinated by the concept of time travel. I can understand why.
Only God is not limited by time or space.
However, we as human beings are stuck in the 70 year lifespan we are assigned. No such thing as a re-do for even just one day.
We can at least learn from our mistakes, but we can’t go back in time to change our past in order to ultimately change our future.
Still though, I think I keep secretly hoping that one day I can. It’s stupid to think that, I know.
I could have been a much more knowledgeable, helpful husband and father and son and brother and friend if only I knew then what I know now.
Not being able to time-travel puts us in an annoying situation where we have to make things right, ourselves- as people allow us, after the fact.
Saturday, Mommy picked up Frozen (more on that in the next letter) for you from Redbox and a movie called, About Time, for her and me.
When I saw the cover with Rachel McAdams, I assumed it was just another version of The Notebook.
I was wrong. It was more of a barely R-rated version of Marley And Me, without the dog, but with a plot line involving time travel.
It features the close relationship between a father and his adult son, as they both are able to time-travel to events in their own life in order to relive them for the better.
They eventually begin reliving each day, right after it happens, in an effort to catch all the subtleties they missed the first time.
There are those missed opportunities to smile at someone, to make someone laugh, or to just simply appreciate the otherwise uninteresting parts of life with the people they encounter.
The son begins realizing he no longer needs to go back and relive each day, as he sharpens his ability to truly appreciate those “lesser” moments. He begins enhancing the lives of his family, and strangers, in the process.
But I guess I don’t have to time-travel to learn that same lesson.
Actually, I feel that watching the movie twice over the weekend has actually helped changed my thinking for the better.
The movie points out that we are all travelling through time each day and it’s up to us how we manage that time the first and final time through it.
It just so happens, you and I are travelling through time together. You’re stuck with me, kid.
I loved that the theme song of the movie, which is featured throughout, is “The Luckiest” by Ben Folds. That was the song that Mommy and I had for “our song” at our wedding nearly 6 years ago.
“The Luckiest” points out how much it matters that two people are born in the same span in the history of the world so that they can know each other and be close.
Had I been born a hundred years ago and Mommy was born in 1981, as she truly was, then you wouldn’t exist. The three of us wouldn’t exist as a family.
But I believe we were meant to be together in this life in which we travel through time together.
This movie, About Time, helped remind me just how special and important it is to be alive during the time I am… with the people I am here with.
My love for you is not based on a law; nor could it even be. After all, there is no law that can force people to love each other.
Same thing goes for my love for Mommy. Sure, we have a marriage license (as recognized by the state of Tennessee) and were were married in a church (in front of God and other believers)… but I can’t be forced to love Mommy, or you.
Yet I do anyway. I choose to. I want to.
On a global scale, I believe that if everyone truly loved each other as much as they did themselves, the world wouldn’t need laws; nor would there be wars… nor would there be rich people or poor people, escpecially to the degree that people are starving.
Despite a person’s acceptance level in regards to Jesus and what He taught and claimed, I think there’s no denying He spoke some truth when He summarized it this way:
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ -Matthew 22:37-39
But since not everyone does love their neighbors as much as they do themselves, the pattern of brokenness repeats itself.
I used to be a much more openly political person; thinking that my public beliefs as a [Republican or Democrat] would help convince the [opposing political party] to join “the side that truly cares more about helping people.”
But I was wrong to think that way. I was too focused on thinking that if our government would change laws to suit [my political affiliation] at the time, it would force people to stop doing the things that my religion teaches against.
I realize now, the law doesn’t prevent people from hurting each other. Nor does it change a person’s heart.
At best, when a person breaks the law and is incarcerated, it just puts them in a temporary time-out (jail or prison), yet that person (in most cases) doesn’t actually become reformed and redeemed.
Without a true change of heart… without a person truly having the mindset to love other people as much of they do themselves, how can they break that pattern and lifestyle?
And on the flip side, while it’s always the individual’s choice to commit a crime or hurt another person in some way, I do consider how that person’s home life and environment could have led them to make that destructive decision.
Had that person been more loved by those around him, maybe (not definitely) there’s a good chance he would have never headed down the path he did.
Meanwhile, my version of reality has been much different…
I realize that being a middle class American as long as I’ve been alive has given me major advantages and privileges in life; ones that you will have as well. However, I understand those advantages and privileges come with great responsibility. I try to consider this concept:
If I become richer, other people in the world are probably becoming poorer. If I become better well-known, other people in the world are probably becoming more forgotten. If I have too much, it means other people in the world probably don’t have enough.
I am light years away from perfecting this “love your neighbor as yourself” concept in my life, but I have a feeling that if I’m mindfully teaching it to you, I can take a few steps in the right direction.
This past Saturday morning, we hung out with some of your friends from school, at Home Depot. While the project was assembling a wooden race car, you were actually much more excited by the free, endless supply of balloons.
Despite the ongoing “balloon fights” (like a pillow fight) between you (the only boy) and the three girls, there was no crying. Just good clean fun; hitting each other in the face with balloons.
I really enjoyed the show!
Mommy and I let you bring three of the balloons home. Mind you, these are just plain balloons that I blew up myself- no helium.
Later that day, after you woke up from your nap, we bought groceries at Kroger, where Mommy and I have let you get into this (bad?) habit of choosing a new Hot Wheels car each week (hey, it’s just 98 cents).
However, when I let you check out the cars selection, a blue cheetah doll caught your attention instead. Fortunately, it just so happened that this particular blue cheetah was in the wrong section and the tags had been removed.
I took you to the general manager to find out how much it cost, and for you, he agreed to $ 2.99. You must have charmed him, because had it had the price tag on it, it would have cost $14.99.
You still had enough Christmas money to afford it, so you bought it; and boy have you been proud of “Cheety” since then.
So Saturday night, as we were getting ready for dinner, I walked by the coffee table and caught you “writing” (scribbling) on a notepad with a yellow highlighter.
You were quietly “reading” out loud what you were writing:
“Thank you for my balloons and blue cheetah…”.
Once you realized I had heard you, you stopped. I was way too curious not to ask you what was going on.
“Jack, who are you writing that letter to?”
I almost already knew what you were going to say- and I was right:
I can’t argue with your logic. If it weren’t for God, we wouldn’t have balloons or blue cheetahs.
One of your new phrases that you’ve recently picked up is “oh my gosh.”
To some, that may not seem like a big deal. But for our family, it’s not something we take lightly.
“Oh my gosh” is lesser form of “oh my God,” which in my book, is a way of breaking one of the Ten Commandments: It’s referencing the Lord’s name in a trivial way; not in a reverent way.
I feel it’s my job to help you understand the difference in when it is and is not appropriate to use God’s name.
Here lately, you’re really getting curious about being more involved when our family prays together at dinner time.
Last night after I prayed while the three of us held hands before dinner, we all said “amen.” But you kept holding our hands, like you wanted to pray too.
So with Mommy’s encouragement, you paused, then simply said, “amen.” Hey, it’s a start- and I think that’s pretty cool of you to want to participate like that.
Whereas praying to God is the right way to use His name, randomly saying “oh my gosh” is a way to sort of indirectly tear down the holiness of God’s name.
It’s funny, because if you were 10 years-old and saying “oh my God,” I would be relieved for you to start saying “oh my gosh” instead.
But since you’re only 3, “what in the world?” is the phrase we are teaching you to say as a substitute for any form of “OMG.”
However, “oh my gosh” is everywhere.
It’s in kids’ movies and TV shows. You have friends who say it at school. I never thought much of it until it became a phrase I didn’t want you to say.
To be clear, I don’t find “OMG” to be offensive when others say it, because I don’t see how that personally concerns me. I see it as an issue between an individual person and God in regards to how they use His name.
But for us, as a family, it’s a decision we have made, based on the teachings of our faith.
So while it might sound trivial, I’m going to steer you away from “OMG” and redirect you to “what in the world?”
Even if it’s normal and everyone else does it. Even Mater and Lightning McQueen.