Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Free Will and other yummy things

summer, 2006.....cousins on a jaunt through the forest.
The other night as I was french braiding my daughter's hair, she admitted her discomfort with how a new friend at school responded to her when she told this friend that she was nervous about her upcoming Math test. The new friend told my daughter that it was in God's hands. It left Martha feeling at a loss for words......of course mouthy momma here had LOTS..........but I was good and zipped up my opinions. I saw the chance to have an interesting conversation with my insightful 14 year old daughter to find out why she didn't know how to respond (she didn't want to hurt this new friend's feelings knowing that her family were involved in fundamentalist missionary work through their church etc) and what she was thinking. It was evident right away that she had been thinking about this a great deal.

"Why would God have a say in how I do on my Math test? Didn't He give human beings "free will" so that we had the choice and ability to succeed or fail," she asked.

Without getting into a philosphical dissertation thereby losing both myself and my daughter into a convoluted and complicated cat and mouse discourse that is best to have over a few sniffies of brandy and cuban cigars, I simply said............"Uhuh........."

I was also braiding her hair and was trying to concentrate on wrapping the right strand around the right strand......a trying exercise for someone who has only ever done this task on herself (that would be ME) years ago while standing in front of a mirror, thereby doing the task inside out and backwards. As much as I'm a multi tasker extraordinaire, braiding hair, discussing evangelical fundamentalism, and defining free will WHILE the ballgame is on TV AFTER a long day of work and cooking dinner.................. "Uhuh" seemed like a safe answer.

Kidding aside............

My daughter, who was sitting on a comfy ottomon, not paying attention to the game whatsoever, and happy to have my undivided attention away from other ears (insert nosey parker brother who has an opinion on EVERYTHING and likes to debate it until the cows come home ) was completely and totally able to focus on the conundrum of her friend's comments, and her own blossoming journey of faith. So, she was full of ideas which was obvious she had thought through more than I had realized.

Free will, according to Martha, is the reason she has an interest and a belief in God. Free will allows her to be both independent and dependent on God. And it is free will which gives her the invitation to question religion, to wonder about God, to look around and see the different faiths out there, to take control over how she will do on her Math test.

She shared a few conversations she had recently had with a couple of friends, one specifically who is a Quaker. They had spent 2 weeks sharing a cabin in the summer at camp and it appears that they spoke a great deal about Quakerism, Unitarianism and about Protestantism. It also sounds like they shared their opinion on the Dalai Lama, and on God and touched a little bit on trying to figure out why so many religions fight against one another.

WOW! And to think at that age I was just trying to figure out how me and my tentmates were going to meet up with "the boys" in the woods after lights out!

Fascinated by where she was taking me....................I became a meticulous braider.....slowing the process down so that we would have uninterupted time.......

an aside...................cause it seems to fit in my thinking right now anyways

When Martha was 5 years old, she informed her GrandMim, her aunt and I that she wanted to work as a missionary in Africa. I was thinking of that conversation......remembering how her aunt dismissed it outrightly.........all the while Martha was trying to explain what she wanted to she saw herself. IN her kindergarten thinking, she hadn't connected it to any religious group, though she knew churches sponsored people to go. Rather, she knew at that age that Africa was in need. She wanted to be there to help those in need. She debated her aunt over this desire for a long time while we were all making dinner one night.......and I was amazed at how much thought had already gone into her decision at age 5.

She was so young that when I bring it up now with her, she has only vague memories of it. I don't! It was a truly an eyeopener as to how deep my daughter's thinking and compassion dwell. She is one who was born with that gift. She may not have had all the words and the ability to debate it at 5, but she had a keen sense of her desire to help others.

Back to our recent conversation..........

I shared with her some of my feelings on finding our way finding God. I told her that I believed it was a lifelong journey where we have the "free will" to question, to ponder, to interpret, to change our minds, and to find some acceptance. The stories we are told in the Bible are often metaphors offered to us as signposts to learning. I told Martha that I wasn't comfortable with pat answers or black and white interpretations of the stories and that I find that as an adult now I am looking at them and interpreting them very differently than I did when I was younger. This seemed to give her some relief, and admitted that she found some of the stories she had been told frightening and unreal. They didn't make sense to her when they are taught in such a black and white manner.

Interesting....... I continued braiding.

Silence ensued for a little while.

Then Martha said............."You know what makes me really believe there is a God?" Assuming it was going to be something about nature or coincidental fates or something like that, I wasn't prepared for her answer.

"Eyebrows! I mean, what brilliant idea. Our eyebrows protect our eyes from the rain. Tastebuds! Who else but God would give us tastebuds! Our whole body is full of miracles that only God could've come up with. Nothing He did when he was making our bodies is random. Every part of our body has a reason and a function, doesn't it?"

I then told her about Dr. Paul Brand, a missionary who worked with the lepers, who figured out how important it is for humans to feel pain, of how his work and his insights AND his faith drove him to help lepers, who can't feel pain, protect themselves.

"Have you heard the term "The Body of Christ?" It means that we are all members of the body of Christ........we have roles we play in this world........we are equal in the eyes of God because we are all members, no matter what our life circumstances are. Dr. Brand, who's life passion was in medicine, was able to write his interpretation of his beliefs and his missionary work using the human body as an analogy for the Body of Christ," I explained.

Then, I pointed out the book to her which was sitting on the shelf.

"When you're ready and'll be there for you to pick up and read. You'll know when the time is right."

We finished with the braiding. I sat down to watch the ballgame and Martha went off to chat with her friends online. And I was left with a feeling that I had been given a who was sporting french who never ceases to amaze me. I'm blessed to be living with a wonderful teacher.....I think she was named aptly.


Open Grove Claudia said...

I love the space and trust in your relationship with your daughter. You clearly trust her to think for herself. That says a lot more than any "teaching" from any God.

Yea for you!

kenju said...

I do think that your daughter Martha has had a good teacher (in you), who has allowed her to find her own way in her beliefs.

I had to laugh about the summer camp line; I was also trying to figure out ways to get to the boys....LOL....and at that time, God never entered into it!!

Awareness said...

Thank you Claudia. My husband and I have always encouraged our children to think things through themselves.....and to look at an issue from more than one angle. If I had to choose the most common way I seem to respond to their questions it would most likely be......What do you think?

Having written that, though we have had many conversations over the years about God and His "God buddies" as Martha used to call them......I wasn't aware until the other night that she understood what "free will" meant with respect to the role we play in our own destiny. I LOVE the fact that she and her friends are talking about the biggie things and not just fashion, because lately???? That's where most conversations head and it drives me batty. :)

Judy.....My husband has always been adamant that our children will grow up to believe in the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team (no ifs ands or buts on that one) but they can have a free rein when it comes to the religion they choose as adults. heehee!

As for the late night forays.....what fun that was! :)

Shaz said...

What a great kid and amazing Mumma.
We talk about free will as we have many friends who cringe at our faith and make light of it.
Thats okay as they have their digs but remain respectful.
I love that free will and taking responsability for ones results on her test was the first thing she thought of and then to discuss it well just proves what an amazing yound woman your raising.
Not that I would expect anything less lol

Kate's Typewriter said...

this is fascinating. makes me less afraid of being a mum someday... haha. precious moments.. responsibility, moving away from fatalism, i think is one of my corners of Jesus' teachings. very interesting discussion. i so appreciate your encouragement. :)

Robert said...

wow eh!!!! me thinks it not farfetched that your daughter displays a deep well of compassion wisdom and understanding about spiritual issues as well as the various other things life contains you and your husband must just glow sometimes thinking about her that whole post was a delight to read ty dana

Awareness said...

Shaz....I'm very grateful that both of my kids are comfortable and interested in sharing this stuff, especially Martha. At her age, one never knows. I see many of her girlfriends closing up around adults and getting that "lippy" attitude that often rears it's ugly head at this age. So far, we're very lucky. But, I don't think we are going to be dealing with much of that. My daughter has a personality and a sensitivity that doesn't equate to much "attitude".........however, these are early days in adolescence.
It is a bit of a crapshoot really. We can put down strong foundations, but it is a mixture of alot of elements we have no control over.....
Will try our best to keep the talking happening, and making sure she knows that her opinions and thoughts matter....and they sure do. :) is a bit of a minefield, that's for sure. The combination of nature/nuture is not as controlling as one would prefer....however, my experience has been very positive.
I'll never forget the feeling I had when the nurse put martha in my arms right after she was born. It was that one moment that allowed me to understand what it means to have a melted heart.
ps. your writing and poetic heart Kate is astonishing. I love reading your beautiful deep feeling pieces on your blog, and I hope you keep writing so I can soak it all up.

Robert.....thank you. I was thinking about you last night, realizing that I hadn't visited your site in a while. It's been a very busy time here.....I seem to be able to find a few bits of time to write but I haven't been following up with my blog friends as much as I'd like. I'll head over this weekend.

cheers to you all.

enjoy this beautiful Thursday! I'm in the classroom today delivering a workshop with a bunch of talented women!

St. Kevin & the Blackbird said...

Dana: Like I always say, When it comes to free will, we have no choice.

Awareness said...

OMF Robin! I'm completely rattled! Just 20 minutes ago, I was starting dinner and out of the blue, I started thinking about you.........wondering how you were doing........wondering if you were blogging still......How synchronistic is that????

twilight zone-ish........ I zoomed you in!!!! Love to you and Holly and those crazy cat boys of yours.


Marja said...

Wow you have a very wise young lady, and how nice that she shares these things with you. She's got a wise mum as well.
My daughter just turned 15 but she doesn't share much with me anymore.
She is very much a teenager.
I believe in free choice, and I believe if we make the right choices we automatically connect to others.