Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Little Lamb, Who Wired Thee?

Little lamb, who wired thee?

Our oldest daughter hates church, and hasn’t gone with us on a regular basis since she was 13. This would make sense to us if we were one of those Bible-thumping, “believe it all literally or burn in Hell” families. In our experience, people who’ve soured on church come from those kinds of families and those kinds of churches.

But we’re not like that. We’re Lutherans, we’re expected and even encouraged to question. We’re expected to bring our brains with us to church. As such, we expected and encouraged our daughter to question what she heard in church and to look for the nuances that might change an interpretation, even as we did.

Dost thou know who wired thee?

It wasn’t always like this. She loved church when she was a toddler, and made us sit in the front pew so that she could see what was going on better. She would pretend to baptize you when she was taking a bath. She enjoyed the fact that her mother had been her Sunday School teacher and “knew every Bible story in the world.”

Then there was the embarrassing incident in Kindergarten when she told one of her Hindu friends that Ganesh, their elephant god, was stupid and didn’t really exist.

But at some point, somewhere around fourth grade, that all changed. She didn’t like church, didn’t like going, and resented having to come with us.

Little lamb, who wired thee? Dost thou know who wired thee?

I know who wired you, and I’m annoyed. But not with you. After all, you didn’t ask to be wired with a brain that often focuses on the one tree instead of the vast forest around it. You didn’t ask to be wired with a brain that looks at things in a strict linear fashion that takes what you know about the major world religions, and rather than being able to ask deeper questions about them, just concludes that since they can’t all be right, they must all be wrong.

Instead, I’m annoyed with the one who wired you this way, and then gave us the responsibility for trying to get you to “get” him. I’ve found myself throwing up my hands in frustration saying, “You want her, you deal with her. You wired her that way, so you find a way to patch into those odd, but fascinating circuits you created. But don’t put this all on us!”

I’m annoyed that he also seems to have wired millions of other people to not “get” him, while apparently blaming them for his wiring job.

Little lamb, who wired thee?

When she was baptized we promised to “faithfully bring her to the services of God’s house…and provide for her instruction in the Christian faith,” and yet there comes a point when you can try too hard, and lose a person forever. You can force attendance, you can force compliance to certain behaviors, but you cannot force belief. We didn’t want to win the battle while losing the war. And so she stays home.

Dost thou know who wired thee?

I’m no electrician. I don’t even like changing light bulbs. But maybe somewhere in that wiring that so confuses us is a homing circuit that will be activated someday, if we just leave things alone. An excellently made circuit that might be ruined by our mucking about with it too much.

Little lamb, God bless thee.

Little lamb, God bless thee.

with apologies to William Blake


  1. I think that's a hope of my parents with my sister too...she's "grown up" enough to make her own decisions and that they just pray that somewhere, someone will say something or do something to make it all "click" (again).

    I think we all just need to remember that we're not in control...God sees a much bigger picture than we do. We need to trust that God knows what he's doing.

    By the way, remind me of that when I'm banging my head against the wall when my child reaches her teen years. I have a feeling it's going to be a rough road. ;)

  2. Keith:
    Thanks for your honesty, your pain, and your insight. My partner and I have three little ones who we hope and pray will stay connected to the church and our gracious God, but who knows?

    It is good to know that God's love for "Little Lamb" has not changed. And never will.

    Be well,