After another busy afternoon, aside of coloring Easter eggs and laughing about cracked shells, we went shopping for some groceries and returned home to unwind.
I was running back and forth trying to finish up a couple of line on the next book when I figured to check on Sheri and the girls.
I found Sheri and Kendra engaged in a deep discussion about church. After getting the gist of it, I returned to the safety of my office already thinking what I would say.
As inevitably as the coming of night, Kendra, my inquisitive seven year old came into the office.
"Daddy, why don't we go to church?"
With the hard-earned wisdom of thirty-seven years, I replied, "Ask Mommy."
The pause gave me enough time to consider several issues that don't always cross my mind.
I started wondering how to answer that. Do I paint a colorful picture? Do I deflect it as one of those trivialities of the adult world that she wouldn't understand in her young age?
No, I thought. My daughter deserves an honest answer.
I was raised Catholic in a place where you were either Catholic, or you weren't. When I came to the US at the age of thirteen, I didn't understand all the different denominations and no one ever gave me a real answer as to define what made them different. Lutherans, Presbyterians, Baptists, Christians, Evangelists, it all just made it too confusing and the lack of answers made me decide to stick to the one safe alternative, which meant to have faith in the most basic and elemental sense.
"Kendra, you're a kid, but you're a smart kid, and I don't think anything less than honesty will do for you."
Her eyes widened with interest.
"When you were a baby, you were baptized, which meant it's my duty to teach you to have faith, to believe in God, in Jesus, and all His teachings. When I was a kid like you, I was obligated to go to church and sit there while the priest talked about things I didn't understand in the least. A part of me didnt' want you to go through that, but I understand that you want to learn."
I've learned not to talk down to her, to any kid for that matter. They constantly prove to understand far more than I've given them credit for.
"I don't go to church because I know God is with us every second of the day and all around us. He knows everything about us, sees us, hears us, He's not in a church waiting on us, and he's not charging us money to be with us. Unfortunately to me, that's what the church does."
"Is everything always about money?" She asked.
She seemed confused and I was afraid I was throwing too much at her.
"God is everywhere. He is like the air we breathe."
It was then that I recalled having a similar argument with the last priest I ever held a conversation with. He admired my staunch belief that God is everywhere, but he lamented that I failed to see that the church is about a group of people coming together. I didn't disagree with the man, but fortunately, or unfortunately, I was too observant and too curious to blindly believe in hisdoctrine.
My experience with churches has been that they are wealthy places, and although every sermon has the directive of giving and sacrificing, I was there when the priest of a certain church in my native country sent two men to push a group of homeless out of the atrium and back to the street. Talk about a contradiction!
In America churches seem to be always locked except for Sundays, despite their promises to always welcome everyone with open arms.
Before service began, before that first Hymn, the priest stood before the congregation and aired out the financial woes of the church and demanded (not so subtly) bigger contributions, and for what? To turn a humble hall of worship into some modern, spacecraft-like building to compete with a neighboring church, which was undergoing renovations.
Of course I held back from telling my girl any of that.
In my humble, and perhaps misguided opinion, Our Lord Jesus did not preach from the altar of a multi-million dollar edifice, and he went out of his way to touch the hearts of the hungry, the downtrodden, the outcasts, and the lost. He did not hide in his own little country surrounded by a large percentage of the world's works of art, and He did not shove his teachings down everyone's throat. He had but one message, "Love thy neighbor". No specifics, simply love thy neighbor.
I've seen far too many peacocks paste their fake smiles on Sundays and court the attention of the congregation, cultivating an image of perfect harmony, only to hold their own family in contempt and show nothing but disdain for others.
But how do I weave all those attitudes into a simple reply to satisfy the curiosity of my daughter?
"Kendra," I prayed for God to illuminate me, just this one time, to say the right thing. "I'll be happy to read the bible with you, to explain to you the lessons in it. Just promise me, you'll never let someone tell you what, and how to believe in God. Not even me. Just know that He is everywhere, and Jesus has a very soft spot for children like you, so when you need to, talk to Him. Open your heart and talk to Him. You don't have to do it in a church. The churches you see out there, those fancy buildings, the long robes, that's not the church, that's more of a business. The church is the people like you, like Mommy, like me, who struggle every day to be good people. And God is love. You can't see love, you can't touch it, but you feel it, you know it's there, and it's everywhere."
She noticed the faltering of my voice. "Like the air we breathe?"
I smiled at her. "Like the air we breathe."
She seemed satisfied, though I promised to make an effort to find a church for us. I'll do anything for my little girl. God knows that, and given what I feel in my heart, He approves.
At the end of the night, I kissed my girls good night and returned to the computer to try to compose these feelings, though I suspect, I've failed miserably.
So, at this moment, once I sign off this letter. I will grab my coat, and walk outside to stare at the starry sky, and I will fall to my knees, pleading for guidance from The Father, who is everywhere around me, in every breath I take.
Friday, April 6, 2012
"Why don't we go to church?"
Javier A. Robayo came to the US in 1988 from Ecuador, and began writing to learn English. He published his first novel in 2012 in an effort to provide for his two daughters, who are the basis for some of his characters, as well as his wife, and many of his friends in real life. An avid blogger, Javier has attained some notoriety in his "Out of the Mind" blog with works like iAuthor series and the one of a kind D-Day. His adventures as a father raising two girls make up much of the heartfelt material on his "Letters to my Daughters" blog. Javier returned to Connecticut, after 13 years in Pennsylvania where he was a steel worker. Much of his experiences will go on to make a novel about the struggles and triumphs of working class America and the epic battles with the white collar types. Javier's works delve in Romance, Drama, Inspirational, Fictionalized Memoirs like the acclaimed "My Two Flags", and even Paranormal like his recently released short story "Requiem." His work is known as emotional roller coasters and for characters that come to life in the minds and hearts of readers like the one of a kind Lewis Bettford from "The Gaze" and "The Next Chapter."