Excerpts from a conversation with Kathleen last night before bed:
Kathleen: “Dad, why did God make me with such sensitive feelings?”
Me: “I don’t know. Maybe God wanted you to be nice, and so God gave you sensitive feelings.”
Kathleen: “No, being nice doesn’t make me sensitive.”
Me: “Well, maybe you are asking the wrong question. Instead of asking why God gave you sensitive feelings, you should ask what God wants you to do with your sensitive feelings.”
Kathleen: “Dad, you really need to lighten up.”
PhD studies in theology do not prepare one for discussing God with a six year old.
For a few weeks now, Kathleen has been asking for a puppy for Christmas. In response, I have repeatedly explained to her the many reasons why she really does not want a puppy. Inevitably, the conversation ends with me telling her that, no matter how much she wants a puppy, we are not getting one. She then usually moves to expressing her exasperation with me in the way that only a six year old can.
Today, Kathleen told me she was going to go write something, and she sat down at her little table and pulled out her crayon. A minute later, she came over to her mother and I with a paper reading: “Dad i wat a pupee. Jesus (Dad I want a puppy. Jesus)”
Her mother and I looked at each other, wondering when our daughter had started using Jesus’ name as an expression of frustration. Thankfully, before we were able to respond, she told us that there was more on the back of the paper. We turned it over to find written: “is in r hrt (is in our heart).”
Cute kid, that one, and lucky she told us to keep reading.
Why do we find such stories moving?
Let me suggest a reason. For all the claims that “everything happens for a reason,” we recognize that some things do not happen according to reason. True tragedy exists in the world, when those who do not deserve it, yet receive suffering.
Our humanity (here, a normative term), demands something else. It demands something like justice. It demands fulfillment, even of those lives that are not capable of fulfillment. This is why we act as much as possible to make lives fulfilling, even for those who cannot be fulfilled by a full life.
The truth of this need, the need for our neighbor to be fulfilled, is a central claim within the Christian narrative. This is a part of my own culture, and a part I cannot reject. It is a basic matter of faith to me. It is the best “argument” for (or perhaps better, “experience of”) Christianity that I know.