Being Good

prayingWhen I was a little boy, my mother taught me a bedtime prayer that went something like this:  God bless Mommy and Daddy, my brother, Glenn, Nanny and Grandma, and all my aunts and uncles.  Please help me to be a Good Little Boy.  Amen.  Life was pretty simple.  Being good meant listening to my mother … not sneaking cookies without asking and not fibbing about it when I got caught.  As I got older I learned about the Ten Commandments and the myriad rules that my church had gleaned over the centuries from the old and new testaments.    Things were more complicated.  Some kids were lifting candy bars from the little store on the other side of the woods and some were cheating on tests at school.   Some kids were sneaking smokes in the woods (they carried their cigarettes in Bandaid boxes and thought it was really clever to walk up to one another and say, Got a Bandaid?).   They threw rocks at passing trains as they came out of the tunnel just for fun or put things on the tracks just to see the train smash them to smithereens.   I admit, I was sometimes one of those kids.   We really weren’t hurting anybody and besides, there was always the Act of Contrition and confession.   Which I used.   Then a few more years passed and there were girls.  And sex.  Which, as far as I could tell, was all against the rules.   I wanted to know … where does it say, No French kissing.  Could that really be covered under coveting thy neighbors wife?

By  the time I was twenty, I’d given up my church and was flying solo.  I still considered myself a good person with honesty and integrity even though I wasn’t following the first four commandments about God.   In my married years, I’ve learned a lot about Judaism, and although I never fully embraced it, Judaism has greatly influenced my spiritual view of the world.   It gave me Yom Kippur to confess my transgressions instead of confession.  I liked it that it was between God and I with no middleman.   Naturally, being a religion, it brought with it its own myriad of rules, including the 617 Mitzvot (or commandments) the Talmud tells us exist in the Torah; some easy (not to have sexual relations with your father’s brother’s wife), some hard (not to bear a grudge or take revenge).   Many had to do with dietary laws which I don’t observe (not to eat meat and milk cooked together) or with rituals no longer practiced (to slaughter the second Paschal Lamb).  It took a long time, but eventually I came to know there is a Godto know that God is one …. and to love God, perhaps not in the way the Torah had in mind but as best I can.

good old boy

Good Old Boy

These days, my prayer is most often, God, please show me Your will for me and give me the strength to carry it out.  Which certainly sounds better than, God, please make me a Good Old Boy.   If you’ve been coming around here for a while, you’ve heard me express frustration at times with people who claim to always know God’s will.   They scare me a bit, to tell you the truth.   Judeo-Christian tradition has given me the answers in many situations but in some cases, I follow my heart.  I cannot believe, for example, that homosexuality is wrong, even though it makes me uncomfortable.  That suppose that sounds like I’m still flying solo to those who prefer a more dogmatic path but I’m not.   A benefit of age is that there seem to be fewer moral decisions with great consequences.   Mostly, they seem to deal with how I deal with others.  For the less significant decisions I make these days, when my Judeo-Christian traditions fail me, I pray and meditate about it in my own way, mostly on paper.  I reason things out with someone I trust and listen for God’s suggestions in what they say.   And I try to do the loving thing, not that finding that is easy in every situation.  Then, I act.  Life will usually show me quickly if I’m wrong and course changes are always possible.  It seems to work.

Muri would never say I’m a Good Old Boy.  But I’m certainly Old and I think she’d say I’m Good.

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