I have been reminded lately of Skye’s first appearance on the planet. As I mentioned in EIIOT, the nurse who gave Skye her first bath commented, “This one will be a handful!” From the very beginning, Skye had a mind of her own which she was not afraid to express. Becoming a teenager has only amplified her defiance and obstinacy. Imagine putting a bridle and bit on a wild horse and then trying to ride her.
But John and I do not want to extinguish Skye’s spirit. We want her to run wide and far. When she is turned on and tuned in to a new project – be it raising chickens or creating artistic exhibits for a social studies project on dogs – her enthusiasm is intoxicating. She teaches us things we might never learn without her. On the other hand, we don’t want Skye to steer so far off the path that she cuts off access to the resources she needs to be successful. We want to keep her safe enough to continue to run toward her goals.
One of the ways that Skye pushes back is in relationship to our family’s religious practices. We attend a United Methodist church where there is a community of loving families and individuals whom we support and who help us on our own journeys. Skye has taken the position that she doesn’t believe in God. She decided not to join the church after attending a yearlong confirmation class. We accepted her decision. However, we still expect her to go to Sunday school and worship with us on Sunday mornings and to attend youth group meetings on Sunday evenings. She needs to do this NOT because of her religious beliefs or lack thereof, but because this is what we do as a family. John and I battle with Skye every Sunday to get her to go and then wonder, between us, is there another way?
What is the point, after all, of forcing someone to go to church? For me, it isn’t about getting her to conform to a particular set of beliefs or to create a certain set of friendships. For me, it is about absorbing the notion: “I am not alone.” I am not self-created, though I am capable of creating. I am not responsible for all the bad things that happen. Nor am I responsible for all the good. But I do have a role to play and choices to make that affect not only me, but other living things as well.
Skye reminds me that some of us have a harder time grasping this notion than others. Some of us need to take a different path to encounter what I refer to as God. I found the following note to myself about a church retreat that our family attended when Skye was five:
Our children’s minister, Anjie, led the children in a program that focused on their “gifts.” The children were asked to draw pictures of the things they are good at. Anjie asked Skye about her picture:
Skye: “I have the gift of chasing unicorns.”
Anjie: “Have you ever seen a unicorn?”
Skye: “I have the gift of seeing unicorns.”
Anjie: “Is that like the gift of imagination?”
Skye: (shrug) “I guess so.”
Anjie: “Have you ever seen God?”
Skye: (giving Anjie the look – Duh!) “Yeah.”
Skye: “In my heart.”
Being reminded that Skye once saw God in her heart gives me hope that she will see God again someday – in her own way – and that when she does, God will be as beautiful and compelling as a unicorn.