"Are You There God? It's Me, Becca."
The other day, my 12-year-old daughter and I were having what she affectionately calls, "Snuggle Time." This was an idea she came up with . . . a time when we can reconnect without distraction, usually cuddling in one of our beds. All electronics are put aside. The time of day varies, as well as how long we spend together. Some days are too busy to have snuggle time, which makes our moments together all the more precious. Sometimes we talk about school, sometimes we talk about friends, sometimes we talk about books we're reading or games we've played or news we've heard. Sometimes we just lie in silence, her head nestled against my shoulder. Recently during one of these moments, she turned to me and said, “Mom, sometimes when I can’t sleep or wake up from a bad dream, I talk to God.”
I knew immediately this was a conversation I wanted to devote my whole attention to. I turned so I was facing her and said, “Oh really? You talk to God? What do you say?”
She bit her lower lip before responding, “It’s different every time. Sometimes when I’m scared, I just ask God to look over me. Sometimes . . . ” And here, she blushed and looked away. I put my arm around her and encouraged her to continue. “Sometimes when I think about boys, I ask God to send me someone to love in the future, like you and Daddy. Even though I can’t hear God, I feel God. I have a conversation.”
I lie beside her in silence, cherishing my girl with my whole being. She has always been a deep thinker, and that’s one of the things I love most about her. She surprises me with random thoughts about love, death, Mother Nature, and the human spirit . . . thoughts that make me shake my head at her astute observations and empathy. When she's a passenger beside me in the car, she likes to listen to music and "Imaginate" (a word she termed when was little that we still affectionately use today.) When she sees the sun's rays coming through the clouds, she believes it's heaven opening its door. When she sees litter on the side of the road, she gets genuinely upset. She is my flower child. Her dreams for the future include saving the world. What struck me about her words in this particular conversation was that she described her relationship with God as spiritual, not religious.
For better or for worse, religion is both a source of comfort and strife. I grew up in a reformed Jewish home where tradition, history, and values were emphasized more than canon and scripture. This is the philosophy I hope to pass down to my own children . . . a connection with the past, with our individual family history, while being a good person and still being a part of something greater than ourselves. But this “something greater” is open to interpretation.
I have a memory of a working on a crossword puzzle in Sunday school when I was in the 4th or 5th grade, and on top of the Xeroxed page was an image of God as an old man, sitting on a cloud, smiling benevolently as I ticked off each biblical word I found. This idea of God never gelled with me. I always felt more connected to God in nature, seeing the beauty of a sunrise, hearing the crescendo in one of Mozart’s symphonies, or feeling my daughters close their baby fists around my finger for the first time. To know that my daughter has discovered for herself a relationship with that “something greater” makes me immeasurably happy. It is my hope that she carries that conviction with her throughout her life.