Monday, May 20, 2013
Rob is beginning to feel hounded by Celia’s desire that he show an interest in her faith and in the religious observances in which she want to bring up their son.
Rob was surprised how cold his words were, even as he said them.
“I don’t care about it, Celia,” he said. “It is not important to me.” He felt a little guilty that he was eating warm soup Celia had made before he came home from work.
Celia sat down and began to butter a slice of bread. “I understand that you don’t care. But would you participate anyway?”
Rob set down his spoon. “You’re not going to let this go, are you?”
“Look, you’re not all that interested in a first birthday party for William, either, but you’re willing to do it because your parents want to drive down for it.”
“That’s a one-time thing!” Rob said.
“You’re doing it for them. Why can’t you do something for me?” Celia disliked the whine in her voice but she found she couldn’t modulate her voice any differently.
“I don’t accept your analogy between agreeing to have a big birthday party and making myself care about church and stuff. I can show up for a party and even help put it on. I’m not opposed to a party, just less interested in it than you.”
“So you’re opposed to Christianity?” Celia said.
“Don’t put words in my mouth! Being indifferent to it is not the same as being opposed to it. I got married in your church, didn’t I? I did that for you!”
Celia didn’t say anything.
“I just want to go running or play golf on Sunday mornings,” Rob continued. “That’s all. Not get up and get dressed just like I do Monday through Friday.”
What does Celia say next?
Monday, May 13, 2013
Dinner isn’t the only thing heating up
Celia wants to talk about how it felt to read the Noah’s Ark story together to William, from a children’s Bible,before bed. Rob just wants to eat dinner.
Celia felt her face burn; she was almost insulted at Rob’s obvious intention to stonewall her efforts to get him to talk. “Why do you have to be so stubborn?” she said, her voice rising.
Rob sighed and sat at the table with the bowl of soup he had just ladled. “Please, just get some dinner and sit down.” He started to eat.
“Can’t you even wait for me?” Celia said, even angrier as she headed to the stove to get her own.
“I asked you if you wanted some and you didn’t say anything,” Rob said. “I figured maybe you ate earlier.” He put his spoon down and waited.
Celia almost wished he had kept eating. She needed something to fight back against and be mad about, because Rob was being slippery in his refusal to talk about reading the Bible storybook. She served herself some soup and sat down, and they began eating together.
“Since you won’t talk about reading together,” Celia started, eating fast, “why don’t you tell me about your day?”
“My day was fine,” he said. Celia heard the edge in his voice but he would not cop to being either stubborn or angry.
She got up from the table and pulled a loaf of bread and a tub of margarine from the refrigerator and tossed them on the table a little too carelessly.
“What is your problem?” Rob said.
“This is important to me!” Celia said. “I want you to care about this!”
Rob put his spoon down, shook his head at her, and put his head in his hands briefly. “But I don’t care about it, Celia,” he said, looking up. “It is not important to me.”
What happens next?
Monday, May 06, 2013
Celia has been after Rob to show more interest in taking William to church. They have just finished reading a Bible story to William together.
“Reading together seemed more special tonight,” Celia said, following Rob into the bedroom.
“Did it?” Rob said, taking off his office clothes. He could feel Celia’s yearning; her efforts to pull something meaningful from him about reading children’s Bible stories together. He was tired of the pressure – he thought he had made it clear to Celia that he was happy to let her get William baptized and to go to church on Christmas and Easter, but that he otherwise had no interest in this.
“Just sounded like another story to me,” he said as neutrally as possible. “The story of Noah isn’t all that different from ‘Good Night, Gorilla,’ is it?”
“Of course it’s different,” Celia said. “It’s from the Bible.”
“So what’s to eat?” Rob said, pulling on sweats, ignoring her comment.
“I made chicken noodle soup,” she said. “What do you mean it’s not all that different?”
Rob turned toward her and sighed. “You’re picking a fight,” he said. “I’m hungry. I just want to eat dinner.”
“I just want to talk about what we read!” Celia said.
Rob walked out of the bedroom and started down the stairs. “Celia, what’s to talk about? Noah built the ark and the animals got in.”
“OK,” she said. “So I don’t want to talk about the story. I want to talk about what it felt like to read the Bible together.”
Rob laughed. “It didn’t feel like anything.” He began to ladle soup from the pot on the stove. “Do you want some?”
What happens next?
Monday, April 29, 2013
An Unsettled Spirit
Celia has enticed Rob into listening as she reads Bible stories to William despite his resistance to engaging in anything having to do with religion.
The lump in Celia’s throat from watching William snuggle into Rob’s shoulder complicated reading aloud. She tried to remember if there had ever been a similar scene enacted in her childhood home, but no, there were no memories of being read to by her chronically-depressed mother or held by her alcoholic father. In fact she was living at this moment a childhood fantasy of family togetherness, though to be the mother and not the child mattered little. Her soul soared; perhaps Rob felt the same way. These could not be just feelings of human love, could they? This must be spiritual.
Celia finished the Noah story, closed the book, and set it in her lap.
“I think he’s asleep,” Rob said. They sat for a long moment in the quiet nursery. Celia wanted to speak into the silence something of what she was thinking and feeling, but she was afraid to misspeak.
She wished Rob would say something, sparing her the risk of saying something wrong and further putting him off interest in her faith. Instead, he stood up slowly and carried William to his crib, laying him down gently. Celia stood up and together they shared that most generous instant in which their shared love for their son transcended any difference they might have over anything. Celia put her head on Rob’s shoulder.
They lingered there but briefly before Rob moved away. “I just want to get out of my work clothes,” he whispered. “Is there anything to eat?”
Celia took once last glance at William before following him out of the room, disappointed that the magic moment ended in the face of the mundane. “That was really nice,” she said, trying to keep it alive as they walked together into their bedroom. “Maybe we could try to do that every night,” she added hopefully.
“Sure,” Rob said, as non-committal and uninterested as he had been about attending church with her.
What does Celia say next?
Monday, April 22, 2013
God remembers me
Rob does not mind that Celia wants to raise their son William with a religious upbringing, but he is not interested in being a part of it.
Rob leaned on the doorway of William’s room as Celia held up a Children’s Bible, inviting him to listen.
As if he would refuse in front of William. “All right,” he said, sitting on the floor at Celia’s feet and taking William from her. “Five minutes.”
William gurgled “A-da! A-da!” (his eleven-month-old effort at “Dad”) and threw his arms around Rob. Truly, there was nothing better in the world than to be with his freshly-bathed and diapered, bedtime-ready son. William showed no inclination to let go of Rob or watch as Celia read, so Rob made himself comfortable in that position and Celia began to read anyway.
“Let’s start with,” she said, “Noah’s Ark.” Rob watched as she turned the page.
“I think I’ve heard of that one,” he teased gently. William nestled even closer to him and put his thumb in his mouth.
Celia smiled and continued, “Noah and his family…” and Rob let her words dull into background noise as he simply enjoyed the moment, caring much less about the content of what Celia was reading than to be with Celia and William in this gentle room at this tired time of day.
“Look, William,” Celia said. “Pictures of animals.” She turned the book toward Rob and her son. William nestled more deeply into Rob’s neck, sending a distinct message that no cute animal drawing could compete with sitting in his father’s lap.
Rob and Celia made eye contact, and they both smiled. “He looks happy,” Celia said.
“I’m happy, too,” Rob said, wishing that issues about how to raise William did not have to take precedent over just doing it, like they were right here, right now.
Celia smiled again and took the book back. “And God remembered Noah,” Celia read.
Interesting phrase, Rob thought, as if (according to the story he was hearing) God had chosen to save Noah and his family in this bizarre ark-zoo and then temporarily forgot about them.
He could not help but feel in that tender moment while Celia read that God, if there was one, remembered him, too.
What happens next?
Monday, April 15, 2013
Family time with the bible
Rob went to church with Celia and William on Easter under pressure but has little interest in anything religious on his own.
At ten months old, William loved his bath but preferred to stand up. “Sit down, William,” Celia would say repeatedly, as patiently as she could. “It’s not safe to stand up in the tub.”
Massaging bath gel gently around William’s back, Celia reflected that Rob had been as good as his word about Easter. He took pictures of Celia with William, all dressed for church, in their muddy spring backyard. He attended the service with them, standing up and sitting down on cue, and holding his half of the open hymnal she offered if not bothering to sing along – but of course he neither read music nor knew the songs, so that was to be expected. He stood in line with her and shook the pastor’s hand and laughed when William crawled his way through the children’s egg hunt.
In fact he had done such a good job of imitating genuine engagement in the morning that Celia dared hope that he was actually enjoying it, but Rob had disabused her of this notion when she asked him later what he thought.
This was a quandary she had not seen before marriage, that to show their children two faces of faith – one invested and personal and one routine and meaningless – might be more confusing to his faith upbringing than if the family did not go to church at all.
She rinsed William and lifted him out of the tub into a warm towel, conscious of the sole weight of responsibility for raising her son not only with a religious foundation, but with a meaningful faith.
Ten minutes later, she was sitting in the rocking chair, getting ready to read to William, when she heard Rob’s car pull in; this being tax season he had been working late almost every day. At that moment she had an idea. It was a mild idea, not earth-shattering, but it was a place to start.
She set aside William’s favorite book and picked up the children’s picture Bible from the book basket. William began to fidget in excitement when he heard Rob coming up the steps.
“We’re just reading,” Celia called. “Come listen with us?”
Rob stood in the doorway and looked upon his family. “Not sure I can take another listen of “Goodnight, Moon,” Rob said.
“I thought we’d try something else tonight,” Celia replied. She held up the book to show to Rob.
How does Rob respond?
Monday, April 01, 2013
Faith and Marriage
Celia told Rob that she was going to take William to church on Easter and made it clear that she would like Rob to go with them.
“Fine. I’ll let you know,” he had said. Celia’s request had not been lighthearted and Rob’s response had come out sounding defensive and pressured. Celia had sighed and left the room.
Rob had wrestled himself all week, should he please his wife and bore himself silly, or was going to church an occasional compromise he could offer to get Celia off his back about every other aspect of religion?
“I will go to church with you on Sunday,” he said, getting into bed one night. “And I will go with you on Christmas, and I will go with you when William is baptized.”
Celia looked disappointed. “All right,” she said. “It’s a start.”
Rob had not responded, but winced at the thought that agreeing to go to church was only the beginning. He was aware of, but tried to overlook, his irritation at being subjected to what was going to be an ongoing demand, for what was Celia really asking of him, but to open his mind to things his parents had not cared about?
“So what did you think?” Celia said when they had returned home from church and William was napping. She was standing at the kitchen counter, making the eggs she had colored for William into deviled eggs for their Easter brunch.
“That feels like a loaded question,” Rob said.
“It’s not,” Celia said. “I really want to hear your honest opinion.”
“All right,” Rob said, pouring himself some more coffee. “It was—theatrical.”
“Didn’t you enjoy the music?” Before William had been born, Celia had been the music director at a small church.
Rob set down his mug and opened his arms. “I suppose it was fine, Celia. But no, I did not necessarily enjoy it. I don’t like organ music.”
“But the trumpets!”
“Cele – maybe it’s better if we agree to disagree on this. I’ll come to church occasionally with you and William because I said I would. But if you’re hoping for some radical change of heart, you’re just going to be disappointed.” He turned to the counter. “Do you want me to start the bacon?”
What happens next?
Monday, March 25, 2013
Faith and Parenting
Celia is realizing how much she wants a shared spiritual life with Rob, despite knowing that he wasn’t interested in religion when they got married. Having a son changed things for her.
“I don’t want to go to church to pretend to be interested,” Rob said. “I don’t see how that helps the situation at all.”
Celia got out of bed and put her bathrobe on.
Rob sat up. “Celia, when William gets older I want to take him to ball games and put a basketball hoop in our driveway. What good will it do for you to do that with us? You’d be bored. You’d just get in our way.”
“Going to church is not the same thing as going to a basketball game!”
“How are they different? I’d really like to know how they’re different!”
“Faith is not a sport, Rob,” Celia said, raising her voice. “It’s about”—she groped for the words –“a meaningful life together.”
Now Rob got out of bed, too. “What are you talking about? We have a house with a backyard, and a beautiful son to play in that yard, and jobs we like – I mean we’re not rich but”—
Celia cut him off. “You’re describing financial security, Rob. That’s not the same thing as meaning.”
Rob looked stunned.
“I know financial security may be the highest form of meaning for you,” Celia continued. “But someday we’re going to die anyway.”
“I don’t think about that!”
“I think about it every day!”
Rob and Celia stood facing one another, their unmade bed between them, though to Celia it felt like the Grand Canyon. They had discussed, even argued, their faith differences before. They typically reached a lukewarm agree-to-disagree stance, but for the first time Celia feared the obstacle was insurmountable and would create a friction on their relationship that would subtly degrade it over time.
“All right. I’m taking William to church on Easter,” Celia said. “I hope you’ll come with us.”
How does Rob respond?
Monday, March 18, 2013
Parenting and Spiritual Things
Rob and Celia are talking before going to sleep. Celia has just told Rob she wants to get their son William baptized. Rob has told Celia that he does not mind if she takes their son to church or gets him baptized.
“I’m disappointed,” Celia said. “I had hoped you might want to be part of this.” She looked like she was thinking about getting out of bed rather than snuggling again like she had been.
“Here,” Rob said, opening his arm to Celia, “lay down.” She did, and Rob inhaled deeply and sighed. “I know you hoped.”
“I don’t understand how you can go through life without any interest in spiritual things,” Celia said.
“Lots of practice, I guess,” Rob said, trying to joke. Celia did not seem amused. “I guess I don’t see what the hurry is.”
“Would you be willing to come to church with William and me, just a few times, to see?”
“Cele, you knew when we got married that I wasn’t religious. Pressuring me now isn’t fair.”
“I didn’t know it would matter so much to me!” Celia said.
Crap, Rob thought.
How does he answer Celia?
Monday, March 04, 2013
Faith of a Father
Celia feels secure enough in her marriage that she is ready to bring up an issue she’s unsure about.
She waited until they were in bed, snuggling.
“William is nine months old,” Celia said. “I’ve been thinking about getting him baptized.”
Rob sighed. “I figured this would come up eventually.”
“Are you opposed to it?”
Leaning on Rob’s shoulders, Celia could feel his shrug. “Not opposed to it. Church has always been your thing, not mine.”
Celia sat up so she could look at Rob. “It doesn’t have to be just my thing.”
“Our life is pretty crazy right now,” he said. “It’s hard to get excited about adding another thing to it.”
Celia had hoped that fatherhood might spark some spiritual yearning in Rob, but it seemed she was destined to be disappointed.
“I don’t mind if you go to church or get him baptized,” Rob said. “I can take a run or play golf or something on Sunday mornings.”
How does Celia respond?
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