Dear God,
The prophet Isaiah paints a beautiful picture in today’s reading (Isaiah 11:1-10):

On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom. The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the Lord, and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord. … Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; the calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them. The cow and the bear shall be neighbors, together their young shall rest; the lion shall eat hay like the ox. The baby shall play by the cobra’s den, and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair.

That’s really nice, God. But come on. In this world?
Do you mean that one day Tom Cruise will serve on the board of NAMI, the National Alliance of the Mentally Ill?
That medical intuitives and pharmaceutical reps will gather around the lunch table and swap business cards?
That insurance companies will pay for mental-health services?
That Rhonda Byrnes, author of “The Secret,” will lead a workshop on compassion … on why the raped women of Sudan didn’t cause their fate by bad thoughts, and why wiping ourselves clean of the world’s injustices is irresponsible, to say the least?
That the organic Red Delicious apples, the locally-grown Pink Lady apples, and the Braeburns with every kind of pesticide on them might all be found in one grocery store, because they wouldn’t be all that different from each other?


That there would be no headsets necessary at the UN because everyone would understand each other perfectly?
That the working moms and stay-at-home moms would all put down their guns and call it a truce, and that the decision to breastfeed, bottle-feed, or make your baby cry it out in the middle of the night wouldn’t matter?

That Fox News viewers might sit down in front of a 50-inch plasma flat-screen TV with CNN-ers, with those who watch Jim Lehrer?
That those who believe yoga and meditation is enough to treat schizophrenia get a chance to lead group therapy at Sheppard Pratt Hospital?
Okay, you get the idea. I know where you’re going with this, God. You want us to become like children, again. To have child-like faith. To trust. Just because.
This whole description of animals lying down peacefully next to each other is about the message in Hebrews 11:1: “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” It is about becoming innocent once again.
Canadian author Thomas C. Haliburton once wrote that “innocence is always unsuspicious.”
I remember the precise moment that I stopped trusting, that my soul grew up.
The evening of St. Patrick’s Day my junior year in high school I downed shots of Everclear, a highly flammable brand of ethanol with a concentration of up to 95 percent alcohol or 190 proof. (Rum and vodka usually contain 40 percent alcohol, or 80 proof.) The parents of my friend Sue were throwing a party like they did every year. Both Sue and her brother, a freshman at the University of Dayton, invited friends over to cocktail downstairs in the basement while their folks hosted happy hour upstairs. Then everyone under 21 who shouldn’t have been drinking headed to the bars of the UD ghetto.
That’s where my memory ends: in a crowded sedan, where like 10 people were sitting on top of each other in the car. In my green miniskirt (for St. Patrick), I was sitting on the lap of a friend of Sue’s brother.
My next memory was waking up in some ghetto house full of beer cans, empty bottles, cigarette butts and roaches (marijuana butts). Later I saw that I had blood stains on my underwear.
My first four thoughts in their proper order: I was raped. I could be pregnant. I can’t have an abortion. My life is over.
I sent Sue to do some investigating. A month later she reported there was absolutely no fowl play. And because I didn’t want to believe differently, I didn’t pursue it. But I can never be sure what happened that night.
That’s a significant part of why I quit drinking at the tender age of 18. I never want to wake up like that again.
So how does a good Catholic trusting girl walk backwards from something like that and believe once again in the inherent goodness of all people?
The other night Katherine was asking me all kinds of questions about God. “Mommy,” she said, grabbing my face and turning it toward hers, “Does God have long hair?”
I didn’t say anything for 20 seconds and then replied, “I don’t know.”
How do I get back to that place, God, of wondering about your hair? How do I regain my innocence, so that, putting all logic aside, I can imagine Tom Cruise giving NAMI’s keynote address at this year’s conference. And I smile.
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