Friday, June 19, 2015

A Lovely Curiosity

Bedtime with little ones is often a challenge, but introduce the warm glow of a summer sunset and the excitement of a day running in fountains and splashing in creeks with friends, and it can feel like a total impossibility. Little bodies sticky and sweaty from a full day outdoors, rosy cheeks and dirty toes, bounce their way up the stairs, corralled finally by the sound of more running water: bathtime. Bodies scrubbed, jammies on, books read, songs sung. A kiss goodnight and I hold my breath, hoping tonight will be the night they surrender to sleep, quickly and calmly. 

But just like that precious night a year ago, I find myself pulled back into the kids' rooms over and over again. Often for another kiss, sometimes for a drink a water, and increasingly with the beckoning of a question. 

Mama, how do those shadows get there? 
Mama, how does my fan keep spinning? 
Mama, why is the wind so noisy?  

My son has a little flashlight that he likes to sleep with, which was originally intended to illuminate a book until he could fall asleep. But lately, his mind races with "How?" and "Why?" and I find him exploring the insides of his fan or crawling underneath his bed to "investigate," even hours after putting him to bed. He is full of questions and a yearning to learn. A lovely curiosity.
Rachel Held Evans writes in her book, Faith Unraveled, "Those who say that having childlike faith means not asking questions haven't met too many children." 
I remember being curious as a child, often asking "Why?" -  wanting to understand the meaning and mechanism behind things, just like my own children do now. Wanting, often, simply to learn and converse, not just to find a definitive answer. Much to my mother's dismay, I would push and prod if her responses didn't feel sufficient for my little heart. I am sure there were many bedtime battles, questions rattling off my lips as my mother tried to slip out the door to piles of laundry and a moment alone. As a mother myself now, I empathize with her short answers, her tired replies. But as a child, I just wanted to know. 

When I reached adolesence, still asking and searching and investigating everything, I found comfort in a religious system that claimed to have all the answers. And although for a season those answers wrapped me with a great sense of security and purpose, I soon realized that the answers were being given without a space for conversation, without room for questioning or pushing back. I realized that my desire, my need, was more for learning and conversing then for knowing and answering.

Evans writes later in her book, "I used to be a fundamentalist...the kind who thinks that God is pretty much figured out already, that he's done telling us anything new. I was fundamentalist in the sense that I thought salvation means having the right opinions about God and that fighting the good fight of faith requires defending those opinions at all costs. I was a fundamentalist because my security and self-worth and sense of purpose in life were all wrapped up in getting God right - in believing the right things about him, saying the right things about him, and convincing others to embrace the right things about him, too."
Today, there is much more that I am unsure of than what I have figured out. With each new question, another ten unfold, and I find myself constantly learning and opening up to new understandings. Asking "How?" and "Why?" as frequently as my children. 

Gone are the black-and-whites, the "ins" and "outs," the days of such sure answers and of constant certainty. Today, I have more questions than answers. And a deep yearning to learn. A lovely curiosity. 

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