“My grandchildren delight in entering into a grownup spiritual world as equals. Perhaps this is one of the gifts non-religious people have a problem experiencing. They might not meet their children as humble partners in service of something bigger than themselves.”
Here is an excerpt from Chapter 6 of WHY I AM AN ATHEIST WHO BELIEVES IN GOD: How to give love, create beauty and find peace.
My grandchildren Lucy (five) and Jack (three) know that I pray every morning on my way down the stairs from my attic bedroom to the studio/office where I write and paint chronicling my garden and the marsh. Sometimes I sit the children up at my easel to paint what they call real pictures—oil paintings—“Just like you make, Ba.” Sometimes we pray together on the stairs, too, “Just like you, Ba.”
“Show me how you pray, Ba,” Lucy says from time to time. Standing at the top of the stairs, I demonstrate. “Lord Jesus Christ, son of God,” I say, “have mercy upon me, a sinner.” Then, “Lord, I offer you this day.” As my feet touch each step while I’m descending, I say, “I pray for Genie, Jessica, Francis, John, Amanda, Ben, Dani, Lucy, Jack, Becky and Becky’s unborn baby.”
When we say grace Jack likes me to ask him to lead us in repeating the Lord’s Prayer. Like the “real paintings” they make—compared to the art they make on the floor of the kitchen with poster paints on huge sheets of butcher paper—my grandchildren delight in entering into a grownup spiritual world as equals. Perhaps this is one of the gifts non-religious people have a problem experiencing. They might not meet their children as humble partners in service of something bigger than themselves. How could a non-praying parent get on her knees with a child she’s been picking on to confess to that child and beg forgiveness, while in the presence of a larger truth than her own wounded ego? The same goes for churchgoing. Lucy and Jack aren’t kids when they are in church. They are fully realized human beings standing in the communion line as equals with the grownups. Thus grownup and child meet, for once, on a level playing field of unknowing.
Sometimes Lucy sits on “her” prayer step. “This is my step, Ba, isn’t it?”
I nod. “Yes, that’s your step.”
The first time Lucy heard me pray for her unborn sister, she said, “You used to pray for your writing and painting on the bottom step. Where do you pray for your writing and painting now, Ba?”
When I say grace after Jack and Lucy lead us in the Lord’s Prayer, I repeat the names of people I pray for on the stairs. If I forget a name, Jack or Lucy will remind me. The prayers have cemented our family genealogy into their brains. Our prayers have also taught my grandchildren that there are other lives we care about besides our own. If they hear a new name added to the list, they want to know all about that person… You’ve been reading an excerpt from Chapter 6 of WHY I AM AN ATHEIST WHO BELIEVES IN GOD: How to give love, create beauty and find peace... if you enjoyed this little excerpt I hope you buy the book. Thank you.
Frank Schaeffer is a writer. His latest book —WHY I AM AN ATHEIST WHO BELIEVES IN GOD: How to give love, create beauty and find peace