Thursday, July 24, 2008

God and Santa

I’ve been talking about the Santa Claus God for years, but was surprised when the wonderful piece by Tony Snow about facing terminal cancer used the same phrase. I thought I made it up! Goes to show that there is some sort of universal “thing” that is more than six degrees of separation away helping us to figure out the things that happen in our lives and to accept the ones we can't figure out.

When my kids were small, especially the younger ones. I was a pretty inept Santa. I left packages they could peek into, and Sarah wasn't much over three when she called me out. "You buy us all that stuff Santa brings us, don't you."

We kept up the pretense, as most families in the United States do, but it never was quite the same again. Reality had taken away the magical part, and it was up to real humans to find special gifts of love.

When I was little, my prayers to God and Santa were offered in the same breath. Please, please, please bring/give me.... I'm sure Mama reminded us to be thankful, and the only spiritual lesson I ever got from my daddy was that I shouldn't eat a meal without saying Grace. I learned a lot of prayers in Confirmation class, and could identify Prayers of Petition and Prayers of Contrition, and Prayers of Thanksgiving when I saw them. That was pretty much the extent of my prayer life until Walker was born.

It's sometimes difficult to get past the childish images we have of God, especially when something bad happens in life that we can’t understand at all. I’m talking about the really big things that you just know you didn’t deserve.

Of course, none of us are good enough, or bad enough, to deserve the life we get. The idea of God having a list and checking it twice to see who was worthy of His Grace is replaced for most Christians by the idea that Christ died for us. Some other cultures and religions have a more basic philosophy which you hear voiced often today, "What is, is." I have come to believe that whatever we believe that makes the bad times easier must be sent from God.

Soon after Walker was born, I attended a kind of ecumenical revival meeting called “Faith Alive.” The guy who led the group encouraged us to pray for what we really want, and said that if we had “faith” God would give it to us. He had prayed to be rich and successful, and he was.

I went home that night and put my faith in God on the shelf for a long time. I was no good at faith.

I read books that I thought might help me understand, but really didn’t. I had visits with a couple of priests that maybe helped me understand a bit better, but not really. I knew that I couldn't pray enough to fix my little baby, and that's definitely what I really wanted. I didn't need for anyone to tell me that sometimes God's answer is no. All the information I had read on Down Syndrome told me that.

I didn’t realize it when it happened, but gradually, a new image of God’s Grace became a part of me. It was hand delivered through the all the people who worked with Walker, and especially through our friends and family who showed their concern by simply being there with us. It shone forth in his first smile and in the love his sisters showed to him. It comes when he progresses to a new level of achievement in his speech and when I see him through the window of the store, diligently sacking groceries without complaint.

I know that I’ve never been good enough to get enough gold stars to deserve all the great gifts God has bestowed on me,or have I been evil enough to earn the heartaches that have come my way. Through all the good and bad, though, God has been with me through loved ones.

I hope I’ll show God’s Grace to someone today. I hope I’ll not blame God for the bad things and will remember that He brings all good gifts, even if they aren’t in the packaging we expect.


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