Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Secret Life of a Fool

Andrew Palau is the son of a world-famous evangelist. I’m the granddaughter of a Methodist local preacher. There’s not much comparison except we must have both grown up around people who talked about God. I reviewed Andrew Palau’s memoir, The Secret Life of a Fool, yesterday, and today, as part of his virtual book tour, I promised to think about what kind of fool being a preacher’s grandkid made me.

My granddad began preaching during the Second World War when there was a shortage of people to work in the church since all the young men had gone away. But Granddad was Methodist and I grew up Catholic, so I’m not sure I ever heard him preach. 

With a Catholic father and Methodist mother, my faith was never something I could take for granted. I couldn’t answer the simple questions at church and say I believed all the same things as my parents. I couldn’t perform the expected formalities without wondering why someone else didn’t do things the same way. Even hymns had different words and tunes. Never knowing quite which answer would please one parent and which would make the other sad, I kept my faith very quiet—no preaching from me.

But Granddad didn’t mind me asking questions when I stayed with him. We could talk about my Christian faith, about Catholics and Protestants, about society and sin. He even showed me his sermons, written in blue ink on faded paper. I eagerly devoured them. He told me the world wasn’t necessarily getting more sinful—we just talk about things more. Leaders weren’t really more corrupt—they just got caught more often. And the good old days weren’t half as good as the days I was growing up in.

More importantly, Granddad taught me that reading the Bible’s more important than believing what someone else tells me about it, and he taught me God’s big enough for all my biggest questions. I’m allowed to wonder because of Granddad, and disagreement, even if it sounds foolish, doesn’t have to scare me. I’m allowed to look at faith and science and know God’s in charge of it all. I can read Revelation and know the earth’s present belongs to God instead of trying to measure when it will end. I can read Genesis and know the God of my faith spoke science into being—my faith and science don’t even know how to disagree.

Andrew Palau rebelled. I didn’t, or at least, I kept my rebellions low-key and let my Granddad direct them. But in the end, Catholic, Protestant, world-famous or just a local preacher’s grandkid, when God calls, eventually we end up hearing Him. The truly amazing thing is God cares enough, in spite of our folly, to want to talk to us all.


J. B. Everett said...

How wonderful to find the freedom to question within the context of faith. Too many believe that faith precludes doubt, rather than exists in spite of it.

edj said...

Terrific post! Your grandfather sounds like a remarkable man.

elizabeth (5 minutes for books)