Monday, October 27, 2008

Padre nuestro, part 3

The Lord's Prayer (in Spanish) is the last thing my kids hear from me at night -- at least the last thing before they hear, "If your foot touches the floor you're on time out. I love you. Go to sleep. I'll miss you till the morning. Do you want to go to time out? Buenas noches, Melía. OK, I'm getting it. Cow's milk or soy milk? I DID warm it! OK, I'll dry it. There. Now go to sleep. Te quiero muchísimo, preciosa. Melía! You're on time out...."

OK, so the Lord's Prayer is ONE of the things they hear from me in the last half-hour of their day.

Anyway, I was sharing what this nocturnal last rite looks like on a typical evening, and then began reflecting on what the prayer means to me as I'm saying it.

Don't let any of this lead you to believe that I am actually thinking about the prayer each night. Some nights, it registers as gibberish even more to me than to my monolingual daughters, just a familiar game-over chant tantamount to the fat lady's song. Sometimes I literally forget the words and have to rehearse and start over to get to the Amén.

But often enough, a phrase strikes a chord, a word revives a dead branch of my soul. To use Jars of Clay's verbiage, the prayer can be "shelter from the rain or the rain to wash me away." Those nights, the words come alive on me. Or something in me comes alive on them.

Sometimes not. But often enough, I reconnect with the One who taught me to pray this way just enough to keep trying.

Santificado sea tu nombre (Hallowed be your name)

Kneeling beside my daughters' beds -- or scooting back and forth between them -- I realize once in a while that this is more than an acknowledgement that God is amazingly holy. That God is holy is plain enough to them, and to me.

They could tell you that God is taller than the roof, that He can fly, that He knows everything, is everywhere and can do anything. He is strong enough to carry all of us and our sleeping loved ones to heaven, and will when the time comes.

I could tell you how much God has grown up in my mind since I had all the answers, somewhere around adolescence. Bigger than my denomination, bigger than the Bible, bigger than Christianity, He is much taller than the ceiling under which I've often kept Him.

He is holy, and wholly other. Unbound by my expectations, unlimited by my anthropomorphizing bent, unaltered by the glass through which I see Him dimly.

I get this.

But the prayer is not saying, "Yo, God. Guess what? You are one holy Deity." This would be redundant, though not totally unhelpful. We do need reminding of the basics. Often.

But the prayer does not do this. It uses "sea" (read "SAY-uh"), the subjunctive mood of the verb be, which is nearly unheard of in English. It's suggesting, wishing, lobbying in favor of the Heavenly Father's name being holy. Maybe it's something more like, "God I want your name to be holy. I wish it were holy. Would that it were holy."

Is this blasphemous? I mean, of all things that need no intercessory prayer, you'd think God's holiness would be one of them.

But want to know why I do intercede for the holiness of God's name? Because to my princesses, I bear that name. I have the radical blessing of being "father," the metaphor God was crazy enough to use for Himself throughout the New Testament.

Like I said last time, I find peace saying, "Our Father in the heavens," because it reminds me that my kids have a Father more reliable than me. But the fact remains--their relationship to their Heavenly Father hangs heavily on my portrayal of the role of "father" in their world. If the earthly father is condemning, they might assume, how much more judgmental must the omniscient One be? If earthly Daddy is prone to rage, just how scary must the Daddy in Heaven, in all His power, be on a bad day?

Father God forbid.

God of Daddyhood, with all that I am, I dream that my fatherhood might do more good than harm to the hallowed name of "father." Whatever mistakes I may make, whether indecency, bankruptcy, idocy or whatever -- just let my girls grow up knowing that being in the arms of a Father is a good thing.

I don't know why you chose "Father" to sum up Who You are to us, Lord. I'm honored and terrified by it. But tonight, I beg You: Please let Your name, the name "Father" -- as I embody it -- be holy.

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