23 December 2008

Grace

I am a complete coward. I thought I wasn't going to write for a while but spending time with family has a way of slamming my face right up against some of my most lovely traits. The moment my parents come, I hide.

Most of the year we say grace at the dinner table. I shouldn't say we. Matt says grace. He came home from preschool one day and simply announced that he was saying grace and he has ever since, the very same one he learned in preschool. "God, you are very good to us, to give us food each day, to make us big and strong, so we can work and run and play. Amen."

Luke hates it. There have been nights when the simple act of Matt saying grace has touched off yet another round of the never-ending theological, philosophical, legislative ( as in "I shouldn't have to be forced to sit here while this is being said.") debates.

I love that it hasn't changed one bit in all these years. I wouldn't know what to replace those words with anyway and I sure wouldn't want to replace the feelings. I don't know if what is said matters as much as that we take a moment to appreciate that we are sitting together, to recognize, with gratitude, that the many things that could disrupt such quotidian tranquility are not in our lives. I like the fact that, at fifteen, Matt likes the ritual and still feels comfortable with those preschool words in his mouth. I even like the fact that, as much as Luke sighs and complains, he still takes the hands of whomever is sitting on either side of him and suffers through it.

Okay, so why on earth do I let the simple presence of my parents in my house cow me, cow us into abandoning one of our rituals?

At dinner years ago, when Matt was four or five and the words of the grace were still fresh, he started to do what he always did: make us hold hands. My mother was shocked but she complied, perhaps because he was cute and small, but the eye-rolling and significant looks at my dad were loud enough that none of us - especially Matt - wanted to do that again.

It makes me so sad that I haven't figured out a way to be myself and their daughter at the same time. I feel lost if I force it, lost if I don't but there is something about taking the time to recognize the sacred in the day-to-day I don't ever want to lose.

3 comments:

  1. MK -- You say you're a coward, and yet the act of writing this post -- of taking your reticence and looking it squarely in the eye is an act of courage. You are taking a dark place and nudging it into the sun, the very definition of courage. Sounds like what you need to do is be embarrassed and say grace anyway. Be chagrined and give thanks. Risk feeling like a mortified 7 year old and do what's in your heart. And keep going! You're doing great!

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  2. I don't you well enough to know who all the characters are in this drama but I certainly can understand your problem. Public prayer carries a lot of baggage.

    Part of the problem (IMHO) is that many religious people have assumed the naturalness of saying public prayers and so many people who do not share in their beliefs are expected to participate under the penalty of public humiliation or at the least scornful looks.

    And then so many of us pray in so many different, and often infuriating ways.

    For many of us, it is merely a ritual that we blow through, sort of like leaving a mandatory tip for God at each meal. This was the way I learned to say grace; "Blessusolordforthesethygiftswichweareabouttorecievefrom theybountyamen." How can anyone respect that?

    And then others, specifically ignore Jesus advice about public prayer and go on and on and on. This infuriates me (as a cook) to no end and there has been more than one pastor that I have cut off with my own loud "AMEN!". After all, God wants us to enjoy the food while it's still hot, right?

    Many Christians who place non-believers in uncomfortable situations, enjoining them to pray without perhaps first consulting them, would never dream of sharing in a Buddhist or Muslim or even Jewish prayer. But I think that out of respect for other people and for the God of all, that we should have no problem in joining them in prayers that are not divisive in nature.

    How can holding hands with each other and giving thanks for sustenance and community be anything other than good, no matter what theology (or a-theology) one holds too?

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  3. Christian:

    I deeply apreciate your taking the time to write this comment.

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I'm interested in any and all comments although it may take me a while to post them.