There is a store downtown that we’ve asked our kids not to shop at. The window is full of a hodgepodge of goods: Sun catchers and hour glasses, crystals and oils, whimsical socks, tarot cards, and all kinds of items the modern shopper has classified as “metaphysical,” which includes anything having to do with Wiccans, native Americans, buddhists, or I guess mermaids.
When I saw a ouija board for sale, I told the kids it was probably just a stupid place, but it would be smarter just stay out, because we don’t need to even get close to that kind of nonsense.
It’s a fine line, because you don’t want to pique kids’ natural interest in the forbidden by making occult things sound tantalizingly fascinating, but you also don’t want them to make contact with anything dangerous. We draw a pretty bright line with ouija boards. Some things are designed to make something spiritual happen, whether the participants believes in them or not, and the purpose of a ouija board is to open a spiritual door.
We have found that the most effective strategy is to teach the kids to roll their eyes at the overwhelming lameness of the kind of store that blathers on about “magick” and darkness and light, and sells cheap sparkly jewelry from China and tries to pass that off as mystical. Snark is a powerful tool.
But recently one of my younger daughters came to me pretty steamed, because in among the singing bowls and skeleton goblets and fairy wind chimes, they were selling a statue of Mary.
“I don’t want to buy it and give those people money, but I want to get Mary out of there!” she said.
I reassured her that it wasn’t hurting Mary at all to have her statue in such a foolish clutter. It’s just a statue, which isn’t her; and anyway, you really can’t hurt Mary. She’s too strong. But I understood the indignation she was feeling. You don’t put our mother in with all that trivia, like she’s just another pretty good luck charm that might send positive vibes your way.
I told her that you never know; someone might choose the Mary statue and bring it home because it was pretty, and it might lead them down a path of finding out more about who this lady is, and it might bring them into the arms of the Church where Jesus is. That is what Mary tends to do: She leads people to Jesus. You never know.
My daughter was fairly skeptical. She is ten, and like many kids her age, quite a traditionalist. She likes things to stay in their lane. So I told her that the Holy Spirit definitely uses the normal channels to reach people, but also speaks to people through whatever is around them. A statue, a song, a movie, anything.
She was intrigued, so I told her about a thought process that went through my head one time, and just about knocked me off my feet.
I had just finished an essay about the faith, and I liked it pretty well, but as often happens, I immediately started fretting that people wouldn’t understand what I was trying to say. Then I started fretting that maybe I wasn’t really clear, myself, on what I was trying to say. Then I thought maybe, in that uncertainty, I was missing out on something that God was trying to say to me.
And then, clear as a bell, I heard in my mind the voice of Rufus T. Firefly in Duck Soup saying, Can’t you see that I’m trying to tell you I love you?
And that . . . was God. Speaking in the voice of Groucho Marx, talking to Margaret Dumont as Mrs. Teasdale, whom he assuredly did not really love, but whom he was trying to woo, in between insults, because he wanted her money. But the point was, the line made me laugh, and it came to me out of nowhere because that is what God is trying to tell me, all the time. He loves me.
He does know me, and he knows what’s in my head, and what will make me laugh. I don’t know if I’m conveying just how sweet and perfect and strangely intimate this moment was, but there is no earthly reason this line should have popped into my head at all, but it perfectly put to rest all the fretting and questioning that I was chasing myself around with. And you would have to know me really well to know what a good line this is to use on me.
It was a blessed reassurance that I had done my best with my work and that God would do with it what he wanted to, and I could relax, because he loves me. All was well.
It wasn’t just a random thing, just a personal quirky story. It tells me that doors are always opening. We can forget this, sometimes, as we fret over the many threats and tantalizing temptations our kids are subject to. Sometimes, as parents, we can focus overly on the many ways that evil can creep in and reach our children.
The enticements are cramming all the storefronts, reaching out and trying to get our kids to partake. The dangers are real. But so is Christ. So is Mary; so is the Holy Spirit. So much realer than evil! So much more authentic. So much more gratifying. So much more intimate.
Jesus is always looking for ways to reach us and to reach our children. He is so humble, he doesn’t wait for a formal, dignified, church-sanctioned invitation to swoop in and make a proposition. Just a little crack in the door will do. A joke, a song, a statue in a window. A line from a movie from short little Jew with wiggling eyebrows.
Can’t you see he’s trying to say he loves you? Don’t be afraid to see it, because it’s everywhere. Be watchful, be listening, but don’t be afraid.
Image is still from Duck Soup: