Sophie plays rugby. The Sunday before Thanksgiving, Susan and I drove to Poughkeepsie, New York, to watch her play in the American Collegiate Rugby Association semi-finals. She didn’t start, but she played, and I’m beyond proud that she’s playing collegiate rugby at this level.
She had a rough season. Early on, she sprained her thumb. She’s a fly-half. It’s a running and passing position, less physical contact than many, but they all tackle and get tackled. She caught her thumb in a player’s shorts. Sitting at work, I received a text. “I think I might have broken my thumb.” She included a picture of her hand. A bruise covered about half of it. I palmed my face and shook my head.
Emily passed by my office in the hallway. “Jeff, are you OK?”
“I think my daughter broke her thumb playing rugby.”
“On, no. I’ll pray for her.”
My step-mother, and by extension my father, are struggling right now. Donna’s in the hospital. She’s having trouble eating. A few nights ago, my father admitted her—malnourished and dehydrated. I got word, a text from my brother, late at night. Too late to call, I sent an email, “Dad, I’ll keep you guys in my thoughts.”
Keep you in my thoughts, what does that even mean?
I don’t pray. I used to. Until about twenty years ago, I generally identified as Christian. Susan and I went to church. I believed in God, I asked for intervention when things got dicey. I never believed that my prayers would be answered, I was essentially covering my bases, you know, just in case.
Over time, I decided there was zero chance of an involved god pulling the strings in our world. Billions of years ago, an intelligent designer set the universe in motion with all the necessary ingredients to create life on earth and a million of other planets. Then they checked out. Possibly they peek in periodically on the galaxies and solar systems to see what’s changed. Maybe they tinker, but certainly not with individual people. Our creator doesn’t care about my hopes and dreams.
So what good is it to keep Donna and my father in my thoughts? I used to say “I’ll send you positive energy” but to me that sounds hippy-dippy. I can’t imagine what my father would think of my positive energy. Maybe hearing that he was ‘in my thoughts’ made him feel less alone. That’s probably the most I can hope for.
When someone tells me they’ll pray for me, it makes me uncomfortable. If I don’t believe in God, do I deserve divine intervention? If I was God, I’d probably act just to spite the unbeliever. “Ha, I cured your cancer, take that.”
As a society, Americans love to send thoughts and prayers. Just this week after a school shooting in Michigan, Facebook was littered with #ThoughtsAndPrayers for Oxford messages. An outpouring of support; it’s the least we can do.
Literally. It’s the least we can do, yet it’s all we do.
The shooter’s father bought his kid a gun at a Black Friday sale. Can you imagine a more American string of events: (1) Buy a gun on (2) Black Friday (3) Shoot children at school and (4) Initiate an outpouring of thoughts and prayers. I wonder what people are praying for. Hopefully gun control, but it won’t do any good. I don’t think there’s anyone to answer that prayer, and America will never control guns.