“Daddy, What's God?"
Let’s Be Frank: The Diary of a Divorced Gay Dad
I have a little confession to make. I was raised Catholic and was very adherent to the religion until I was about 16 and then I defected. I just casually stopped going to church with my Grandma, and would only attend on Easter and Christmas. I didn’t have a bone to pick with God, but this was around when I was realizing that I was gay, and then realizing that my church may not want me. I had been devoted to God my entire life – from the straight A’s in Catholic school to admitting the various ways I tortured my sister to my priest. I actually “played church” with Grandma and would use Cheese Pringles as fake hosts. You can imagine that when I was hungry, she was doling out a lot of communion, and I was doing a lot of praying.
In the years since then, my relationship with God has been rocky, but persistent. My definition of God has changed, and as a result, my feelings about religion have changed. My extremely devout Catholic Grandma passed away just before my son was born, and I find myself praying to her in times of need. I used to watch her count rosary beads with the same speed that I can send a text message, and I was always in awe at her strong belief. She lived a long, wonderful life, and her memory will forever reside in me and my interpretation of God. I feel that it is my duty now to explain things to my inquisitive 6-year-old son.
When Briggs was born, we did not introduce religion into his life. Our logic was that we would perhaps rationally explain all of the religions in the world when he was old enough, and then let him choose. That was my idea, and I’ll fully own that it was a bad one. I wouldn’t even know where to begin how to explain Catholicism, much less religions I am not educated about. I think the solution I came up with was more of a coping mechanism because I myself did not want to face the church again, which I can now confess was a cowardly move. Rather than embracing something that would most likely have embraced us with open arms, I stayed away.
Religious holidays have always been easy to explain thanks to the ridiculous mythologies that surround them. My son only knows of Easter as bunnies and candy, in stark contrast to 6-year-old me who made art projects of the resurrection of Christ. Christmas is just presents and more presents, but let’s be honest, even the most religious people are antsy during Christmas Mass. No, in reality, all of my mom friends are Jewish, and my son is more familiar with Jewish holidays than Christian holidays. He knows there are eight days in Hanukkah, but would recognize Santa Claus long before Jesus. It hasn’t gone unnoticed, and I’ve been dreading the “religion talk” with him more than the birds and the bees. Thankfully for me, he recently broke the silence with a simple three-word question: “Daddy, What’s God?”
I froze. I asked him to repeat himself. He did. I racked my brain for my usual quick-witted reply, but drew a complete blank. I knew that I must carefully answer this, and that he had literally pressed the “record” button in his brain. I told him, “God is the creator of everything in the universe, and perhaps is the actual universe itself.” I looked back in the rearview mirror, and I saw a very puzzled little boy. “Well, what is the universe, Daddy?” “The universe is everything you can possibly think of – all the planets and stars, and all of outer space.” After that, he proceeded to ask me things like “Is our cat in the universe? Is our house in the universe?” and so on, and so forth, until he exhausted everything he knew.
Next question: “Is God a man?” “No,” I replied. “God is not a man or a woman or anything we can imagine.” With focused eyes he said, “Oh, so God is like the air?” “Yes, baby! God is like the air – he is everywhere all at once.” I then explained how God just sort of “was,” and you can go to a church to talk to him. I inquired if he was interested in doing that, and he was. It seemed to appease his question, and I felt I navigated it correctly. My next step will be discussing this with his other dad and figuring out a real game plan.
In the meantime, I’m getting over my personal fears and am willing to do whatever it takes to educate my son properly. I’ve talked to my Grandma (in Heaven) the past few nights and asked for help, and per usual I know she will be there. I believe each of us has a personal interpretation of God, and there is really no right or wrong. I just want my son to be able to make his own decision and have his own interpretation. That will truly be a blessed thing.