December 18 2006, 4:04 PM
We’re not so overtly religious at my house. We do have some things that we do religiously; one of them is having dinner together. This includes saying “grace”. Lately, Emma has been getting agitated when we do this, so one day I said, “OK, Emma do you want to pray for dinner?” She did. And she did. And she does now - not every night, but some.
Now, Emma isn’t really capable of speech, yet. Most of what we understand from her is either paired with signs or the context of what she wants. We can’t really say that she can’t talk; she talks a lot, conversations with her dolls and such. “Apple” is more like “oople.” It is a particular frustration for me when she gets my attention, and delivers a couple of sentences to me that consist of no comprehensible words whatsoever, at least not by me. How frustrating it must be for her.
So she prays for dinner. And signs, “Amen.” Sure, it’s cute, but, like most things, it gets me to thinking. Perhaps you will, too.
What we know.
How we listen.
What we understand.
What we teach.
What God hears that we can’t know or understand?
What difference does it make?
Now, I know that this story could apply to any toddler. Your answers and ruminations on the above statements reflect who you are. Emma is a 7 year old, with Trisomy21. Does she know - can she know that there is a God that made her, or at the very least created the context that made her? That this God loves her and wants a relationship with her? Does He? I’m not sure if she’s really gotten much of a grasp on “right” and “wrong”, yet. Is she responsible for “sin” (should that be a capital “S”)? Is she “covered” - under some sort of divine insurance policy – a ‘gimme’, a “mulligan’? Are we all being graded on points, or on a curve?
Now, I’ve been exaggerating to pique your thinking. I know the theology. I have written about, and continue to think that there are aspects of my daughter’s consciousness and spirituality that transcend my own. She may very well have a concept of God already. She may talk to Him more than I do. What does she know of love? She’s demonstrated giving and compassion. Her kisses are sloppy, wet and golden. She loves me, 'cause I cuddle her and change her and try to teach her right from wrong. She is willful, stubborn, and often seeks her own way. She is more like me than she is not. Does God see her any differently than He sees me, at all?
What’s my point? I don’t know if I have one. I’m trying to communicate what it’s like to live at my house, with someone who exists on a different plane. I’m sure that there are similar experiences available to all of you, whether it’s dealing with an aging parent, or living with serious illness . . . there is no shortage of opportunity, and I claim no exclusive rights to the truth. It is in these situations, and moments, however, that bring focus to our thoughts about what’s really important. What love is.
So, if you find yourself at our house for dinner, Emma may say the blessing. I have to have faith that God hears her, understands exactly what she’s saying, and honoring her for recognizing His place at our table. It is the grace that He’s promised all of us.