You don’t have to journey very far outside your door to find yourself wandering through some challenging territory – especially if your companion is an inquisitive 9-year-old girl.
Ever since her first two 5K races this spring, my daughter and I have made time to jog around the neighborhood together on a somewhat regular basis. Last week, we weren’t one minute into the run before the following exchange happened right out of the blue:
Daughter: Are (her grandma and grandpa) Catholic?
Me: Yeah, they are.
Daughter: But we aren’t, right? What are we again?
Me: We’re Presbyterian.
Daughter: What’s the difference? Why don’t we have the same churches?
Me: Um … it’s complicated. They’re both Christian religions, and they believe the same important things, and at one time they used to be the same group …
Daughter: So what are the ways that they’re different?
And for the next half-hour, while jogging alongside the river and through our little village we engaged in one of the most in-depth conversations of theology and comparative religion that I’ve ever had. We discussed the primitive church and Acts of the Apostles. The growth of the church throughout the modern world. Papal infallibility. Indulgences for sins. Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation. Individual relationships to God and direct communication with Him through prayer and scripture. And so on and so on.
Eventually, the conversation took another unexpected turn, as my daughter went and made things more personal …
Daughter: So when you were a kid, did you go to Catholic church?
Me: Yeah … for a while. I did while I was growing up, but pretty much stopped going for several years when I was older.
Her: Why did you start going to the other one?
Me: I met this really cute girl in college who went to church a lot, and she invited me to go with her one day.
Her (smiling): Mom, right?
Me: Yup. I thought if I went to church with her, she’d think I was a nice guy.
Her: It worked! Good thing you went.
About 30 seconds later, we were back at our starting point, with a mere two and a half miles under our belts, but a wealth of information downloaded onto her cognitive hard drive. I thought we might continue the conversation while returning to the house, only to have this final exchange:
Me: Is there anything else you’re wondering about this whole church thing? We can keep talking about it if you want.
Her: No thanks … I’m going to go inside and read a book.
Just like that, our enlightened discourse had come to an end; it was like as soon as her legs stopped moving, the deep thoughts faded away as well.
I’ve always been aware that running taps into some remote recesses of my brain, enabling me to contemplate theories and discover revelations that I’d otherwise be oblivious to, and it’s comforting to think that my daughter might be programmed the same way. I’m also reasonably certain that there are more questions and complexities bouncing around that head of hers – but I guess I’ll have to wait until our next run together to find out.