Wednesday, June 05, 2013

"mama, does God hate cars?"

My 6-year-old son asked me at the breakfast table the other day, "Mama, does God hate cars?" We try to bike or walk everywhere we can and we've talked about the reason for this: driving our cars puts stuff in the air that isn't good for people to breathe, and it uses resources from the Earth that will run out if we use them too quickly. Plus, it's better for our bodies to get the exercise. One time I told my son that for me, biking is a way of praying. It helps put me in a space where I can be almost meditative. It's relatively quiet and my body is active. It's a spiritual and a physical discipline, toning my spiritual and physical muscles. It's a testimony of simplicity.

In my son's question, however, I sense the feelings that often arise in me as well: a swirl of guilt, pride and fear. We're proud to be doing the "right" thing, afraid that if we do the "wrong" thing, we'll no longer be loved, and we can feel guilty if we knowingly choose to drive when we "should" be true to our commitment of walking or biking. This is the darker side of the spiritual disciplines.

I'm so grateful for a body that works well and can get me from most points-A to points-B; I'm grateful for the stubbornness to do this in many types of weather; I'm grateful I live in a small town so this is possible; I'm grateful for a clear sense of leading to try to alter my life to live more sustainably.

And yet, there's the nagging sense of guilt that I'm not doing enough, and the tendency to feel pride that I'm doing this while so many people are driving by in their massive, fossil-fuel-fed vehicles. At this point in my life, I don't think I'm afraid that God won't love me anymore if I do differently, but I can certainly relate to this feeling, and it's not one I want to foster in my children!

We talked about the fact that God doesn't hate cars, per se, but that God loves us and everything God created. The better we care for ourselves and the rest of creation, the better it will be for us--not because God will love us more, but because we will be healthier. We talked about how God asks us to follow rules not for the sake of the rules, but because they keep us safe and healthy. We discussed self-inflicted consequences. "It would be like if I asked you not to jump off the deck outside. I'd say that because I didn't want you to get hurt, right? What if you jumped anyway? Do you think I'd love you any less? Do you think you'd still get hurt even though I loved you as much as a person can love another person?"

This concept is so simple, and yet so difficult to make ourselves understand--at least if you're me! How do we have a sense of duty and loyalty, a sense of truth and a desire to do what is right, without beating ourselves up for not doing more? How do we practice the disciplines without going overboard into our time period's form of self-flagellation? Can we raise our children with a sense of right and wrong, a sense of following our leadings and an example of that, without teaching them that God hates cars, and, by extension, the people driving them?

In my experience, I try to trust God and release it into God's hands. I ask for release of my own fear, guilt and pride, and for the grace to not teach these tendencies to my kids. I ask for the grace to show God's love through my actions rather than God's negative and overwhelming judgment. I ask for the grace to admit to my children my own fears and feelings of guilt and pride, and to ask their forgiveness as I ask for that of God.

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