When I was little, I said a prayer every night. I would kneel beside my bed and say the prayer many of you know “Now I lay me down to sleep ….” And then I would get into bed and worry about the monsters underneath my bed, in the closet, and in the “butcher hole.” That is what my brother called the space between the bed and the wall.
For me, not only did Santa know everything about me, God did too, and I had to believe that both were kind, otherwise Christmas and the rest of my life would be a sorry state. I was aware of all my shortcomings, big and little. I soon outgrew the idea of Santa, but the idea of a God (“the man with the beard” as our ROP class put it!) who saw everything lasted longer. “Consider the lilies of the field …” goes the Bible verse in Matthew, and I had a hard time reconciling the image of an omniscient deity with my growing experience in life. If God saw and knew everything, and was all-loving, then why did my sister have cerebral palsy? If God is good and all-powerful, then why did so many innocent people suffer so?
Rev. John Wolfe writes that we do not believe in a celestial Peeping Tom frightening our children. We certainly do not, or at least I don’t. I cannot imagine something that knows everything, or even would care to. It is an astonishing act of the imagination to actually conceive of such a thing.
Unless, of course, it is the National Security Agency. Maybe you have had the same thought about the recent disclosures of data mining by the NSA and other government agencies. It is disturbing. Remember the movie ‘The Lives of Others’ about the East German Stasi? We need some sense of privacy, which is nothing more than some sense that our life is our own, that we have some degree of separation from others.
The balance between security and freedom is a hard one; most people choose security, and that may be why more people believe in the all-knowing God than those who do not. Maybe we need both. It is like the balance between being a member of a community and being an individual – it is a matter of finding the right balance.
In any case, the butcher hole is now just the place where I swing my legs into when I get up, with no demons at all. And the only things under the bed are dust bunnies, and they do not bite. And, I live in far less fear.
-Rev. Jim Nelson