Thursday, May 5, 2011
god as santa claus
A friend just forwarded this message to me via email. I never forward this stuff. Never. But there is something so compelling about this I felt like I just had to post something, somewhere.
We don't know who replied, but there is
a beautiful soul working in the dead letter office of the US postal
Our 14-year-old dog Abbey died last
month. The day after she passed away my 4-year-old daughter Meredith was
crying and talking about how much she missed Abbey. She asked if we
could write a letter to God so that when Abbey got to heaven, God would
recognize her. I told her that I thought we could so, and she dictated
Will you please take care of my dog?
She died yesterday and is with you in heaven. I miss her very much. I am
happy that you let me have her as my dog even though she got sick.
I hope you will play with her. She
likes to swim and play with balls. I am sending a picture of her so when
you see her you will know that she is my dog. I really miss her.
We put the letter in an envelope with a
picture of Abbey and Meredith and addressed it to God/Heaven. We put our
return address on it. Then Meredith pasted several stamps on the front
of the envelope because she said it would take lots of stamps to get the
letter all the way to heaven. That afternoon she dropped it into the
letter box at the post office. A few days later, she asked if God had
gotten the letter yet. I told her that I thought He had..
Yesterday, there was a package wrapped
in gold paper on our front porch addressed, 'To Meredith' in an
unfamiliar hand. Meredith opened it. Inside was a book by Mr. Rogers
called, 'When a Pet Dies.' Taped to the inside front cover was the
letter we had written to God in its opened envelope. On the opposite
page was the picture of Abbey & Meredith and this note:
Abbey arrived safely in heaven. Having
the picture was a big help and I recognized her right away.
Abbey isn't sick anymore. Her spirit is
here with me just like it stays in your heart. Abbey loved being your
dog. Since we don't need our bodies in heaven, I don't have any pockets
to keep your picture in so I am sending it back to you in this little
book for you to keep and have something to remember Abbey by.
Thank you for the beautiful letter and
thank your mother for helping you write it and sending it to me. What a
wonderful mother you have. I picked her especially for you. I send my
blessings every day and remember that I love you very much. By the way,
I'm easy to find. I am wherever there is love.
I started reading this and got goose-bumpy, moved by the idea that a little girl could get so much comfort from something so little as writing a letter to a God that she still sees as personal, embodied and not only connected to her, but also aware and protective. That's a pretty amazing thing for a little child to have in a world where the adults all seem so afraid all the time.
But when I got to the part where the book arrived in the mail, I started feeling uncomfortable. I LOVE Mr. Rogers, and love that somebody thought to give the little girl the book. Mr. Rogers -- actually Rev. Rogers, a Presbyterian minister -- does a great job of explaining hard life circumstances to children in a way that allows room for their imagination, honors their array of emotions, and lets them know they are not alone.
But there was something about the letter. It's a view of God that I don't share. I don't see God as and anthropomorphic being who watches over us, protects each of us individually, and determines which of us deserve salvation in the afterlife. I see god as being the energy that connects us, the constant creation that keeps the universe ever-growing, ever-changing, moving in the direction of greater love, knowledge and justice. I see god as more of a verb than a noun.
I could talk a long time about my vision of a loving god that is co-creator with all of creation. But that's not the point. The point is that the God described by the author of that letter to that little girl, is the mainstream view of God, a view that frankly I have a hard time distinguishing from the myth of Santa Claus....the old bearded man who sees everything and gets to determine who's been good and who's been bad and therefore who is worhty of salvation and who is not. the point is that the person who wrote that letter believes in that God, and the healing power of that God, enough to take the time to buy a book, write a letter, wrap it and send it off.
No wonder that image of God is so powerful, so pervasive, so present in so much of the western hemisphere today.
So, where do we stand, we religious liberals, who have a different view of what is holy, of what is sacred, of what it is that binds us together in what we Unitarian Universalists like to call the interdependent web of all existence? What are we willing to stand up and say we have faith in, and how that affects our views of life and loss and love? What are we willing to do to help a child reaching out in pain? Ask more questions? Or actually do something bold, and do it with conviction.
I like to think that had I been the person in the lost letters department faced with that letter from little Meredith, I would have sent her the book with a note from myself, thanking her for reaching out, for seeking the help for her dog, for caring, and for giving me the blessing of connecting with her in such a meaningful and profound way.
How would you respond?