I can remember with vivid color, the confounded look that swept across my mother’s face after having asked her what I (a nine-year old, with a very inquisitive mind), felt was a rather straight forward question.
Standing in the kitchen, my small feet planted on the brightly colored, orange and yellow carpeting that gave our kitchen an unmistakable seventies flare, I stared at my mother while voicing my question, “If ya’ only get to heaven through Jesus…then what about all the people who never heard of him? What about all the Indians?” To which, after a lengthy pause, she replied, “I don’t know. God just knows, that’s all.”
My mother was constantly hit with similar questions. In fact I had a Hefty bag full of questions resting on my mind. Periodically, while driving to the store, or moments before my mother would attempt to bring closure to another long day, I would launch a question in her direction. She was, after all, the person to whom I went for all guidance in this regard. She read the bible and believed in it, and while young, we were raised to believe in it too. However, I questioned everything that failed to make fundamental sense to me – and still do. On the flip side: I had no problem with the things in the bible that did make sense. So, like a rookie reporter from a small town newspaper, I would seek out my mother, wherever she was hiding, and expect a thorough explanation for all that baffled me. I needed her to patch the holes I felt were peppered throughout the bible. My mother, it seemed at the time, was content stepping over the holes.
“Why does the minister say it isn’t right to work or labor on Sunday, that it’s a day of worship and rest…then he goes out for lunch after church? The waitress and cook are forced to labor as a result of him wanting to go out for lunch?” I said eyeballing my mother carefully. On a separate occasion I asked, “Why is there a King James version of the bible? What happened to the other versions? Why did this King James guy need his own version?” I immediately zeroed in on the very real possibility that valuable information may have been, inadvertently or perhaps quite intentionally, left out of this valuable manuscript as it morphed from version to version.
“If it’s a sin to murder someone Mom, then did all the soldiers in Vietnam commit sin when they had to shoot the enemy?” I questioned, while looking at my Mom as she tried to enjoy her lunch. This question bothered me considerably. I needed an explanation, and she tried to offer one. “The soldiers were doing their duty. They were following orders,” she said. Later I asked, “Well, what if a person breaks into your home to steal food for their starving child…that’s a sin right? But it seems to me like God would understand why the person did what they did and it would be okay?” She reassuringly offered, “God understands Honey.” I nodded, pleased for the moment with the thought that there was a good deal of grey area involved with these so-called sins. “Mom – how do we know the commandments are what God really said…?”
So far, my children do not pepper me with these types of questions. And years ago I abandoned those particular questions altogether. Instead, I believe only those things that rest comfortably on my soul. When I want to commune with God I pray regardless of where I am. And when I question the existence of God or that which is bigger than myself, I merely look into my children’s eyes, let my own eyes scan across the natural vista that sits outside my window, or pay attention to the way my heart hurts when I see someone being treated poorly. I see and feel God in these things. And upon doing so, my questions, for the most part – are answered. To this day I still see the great divide between those that profess adherence to certain religions yet fail to let their actions mirror that which they say they believe. Nothing seems more blasphemous either. I don’t care what one believes, but at least live it with respect and strength of mind and character. With that said, my ways most likely wouldn’t feel right to someone else, and that is perfectly fine. Our journey is ours alone to map out, walk, and discover. But looking back, I can’t help but to smile. My mother tried in earnest to answer questions for which she had no answer. But she took the time to listen. God’s love rested within her patience.