Friday, March 8, 2013

I’m at a brewery. Okay, “tasting room”. With a laptop. And a beer (of course.) 

This was a Friday that fell apart. It happens, sometimes. I had so many other things planned, with the rain coming, but the smallish child (Lincoln) fell apart early on, crying and draining fluids from his face (this is my third shirt.) And when he finally gave up on the morning and opted for a nap, the rain had stopped and it looked like I could drop everything and go to work. But I didn’t. And then I broke my mouse, and after that, I just gave up on everything.

I caught Keaton in a lie. He broke the the wing off a little fairy garden statuary, claiming it had fallen from the play structure. He was sure I could fix it with some super glue, and at that moment the guilt was clear on his face. I pressed him on it, “How did it fall?” and he restated the lie, “It fell.” Adding, “It’s the truth.” Which was when I started to burn inside.

So I asked again, and he gave a slightly more elaborate description of how high it was when it fell. I knelt down to his level, and made him look me in the eye, which made him distinctly uncomfortable. I asked him again: “I want you to tell me exactly what happened.” He hemmed and hawed, and eventually came out with a story of the fairy going down the slide, with a bit of assistance on his part. 

What’s a dad to do? I can say I felt an honest disappointment, even though he is only four, but it is nonetheless an awful feeling, accompanied by the thought of him lying in the future, into his adolescence, into his adulthood -and it honestly scared the bejeezus out of me. I had a fleeting sense of how the morning had fallen apart, and how nothing significant had been accomplished. How I’d been spinning my wheels since getup, and then here, unexpectedly, something terribly important was happening. A preschooler’s playground sideshow, a conflagration of superficial events, and then it all mounting unto a moral quandary. And here I was now, on my knees on the kitchen floor, guiding the future of my 4 year old.

“I am mad at you,” I said.

He knew it. He saw it coming. It’s why he lied, after all. And he shifted on  his feet and looked this way and that, for a way out. Even tried to change the subject, as he reminded me that just a little super glue, yeah, and we could all be on our happy little freewheeling way.

But I went for his eyes. “Look at me.” And he did, reluctantly. “I’m not mad at you for breaking the statue. I am mad at you for not telling the truth.” And I was suddenly buoyed by the look on his face, the look that said that he knew this. But that he couldn’t help himself.

I told him, “I can fix it. No problem. You shouldn’t have thrown it down the slide, but what bothers me, what really makes me mad, is that you didn’t tell the truth. It hurts. And it makes me mad, and it makes Mommy mad.” And I stopped for a second, removed all personal doubts and reasserted my religious faith, and added, “And it makes God mad.”

Which I do believe it does, one way or another. Surely God, Himself, has more important things on his mind than the deceptive breakage of a plasticine garden fairy in the Oceanside suburbs. But I think God is bigger than all that, that He can have it both ways. All ways. That here I have a little boy, caught in a lie, and God is handling daily Chinese human rights abuses on one hand, and the corruption of world leaders on the other, and yet He is looking me in the eye and telling me, “DEAL WITH THIS KID.” Because if I don’t, who will? And then what will becometh of the world at large?

So I’m on it, reluctantly. Though, I don’t have time for this! But rain had fallen, and droplets of water hung from the budding jasmine vine just outside the window, and it was very clearly the eyes of God Himself, and Him kneeling down on my kitchen floor, getting down to my level, saying, "Don’t worry about all that other stuff. I can fix that. This is what matters.”

So I told Keaton again. “You have to tell the truth. Always tell the truth. It is very, very, important.” And then I added my own little lie -perhaps because I feared I wasn’t a good enough example, otherwise- but I added, “I know when you’re not telling the truth.”

And the kid nodded, and went about his way.

At work last week I got a text from Mrs. Ditchman, out of the blue. I was up the ladder and heard the bleep, and climbed down and found the phone. It read simply and succinctly, “KEATON WANTS TO KNOW WHY GOD IS INVISIBLE.” It didn’t take me too long to come up with a proper, satisfying (for me) answer. 

“He’s not,” I wrote.

And Marci wrote back, “Yes, of course he’s not.” Which relieved me, a bit. It’s a good question. It’s a great question, really. After all, what philosopher has not asked it? And here it was from a 4 year old. The simplest questions are the most profound.

And yet, the simplest questions often have the simplest answers. God is not invisible. We humans see what we want to see. If you want to see God, there He is. And when we are caught in a lie, we always, always, look away.

Keaton asked another profound question recently (he is prone to it, I guess.) We were on the couch, nearing bedtime. All the family was there, and the idea of death came up, as it has in the past. Great.

“Do all dads die?” he asked. Do all dads die. I don’t need this right now. I’ve had a long day. I still haven’t gotten a shower, and it’s taking every last bit of energy in my being to just hang with you right now and now your big sister and your mom are eyeing me for some right answer to the question of the ages?

And the first thing that came to my head was YES, they all die. And I knew that that would ruin him. I immediately conceived of his entire life becoming selfish and miserable, if he had accepted that simple fact, that one day, the one man in the world whom he most cared about and relied upon, would be gone forever, and so, inevitably, what was the point of anything? What was the point, even, of Truth itself? And I was not going to say, “Yes, all Dads die.” So I said, “No.”

And then I added, “They live in your heart forever.”

And he accepted it. But I suspect it was a slightly disappointing answer. For all of us. And I felt God nudging me with his elbow, but I wanted to look back and say “what?” and that I could use a little bit more inspiration. But there was silence.

Why is God invisible? I thought. He’s not. I’ll still stand on that.

But why is He so quiet?