Saturday, August 24, 2013

Bear Prayer Heresy

[Likely you'll either find this heretical or hilarious, possibly both. I posted some of this on facebook, but I'm re-posting here, with some editing. I'm trying to find the right balance between true reverence for God and humor over my obvious craziness. If I get it wrong, please try to forgive me. Nothing I say here should be construed as official doctrine of the LDS church.]


I fear I was an accessory to blasphemy. Bear asked to give the prayer over lunch, and, without thinking, I let him.

"Dear Heavenly Father, we thank thee for this food, and that I got rescued (YAY!). Please bless this food and help us to have a good day...pleeeease...? In the name of Jesus Christ, amen."

It was kind of funny, but I felt guilty afterward.
The most charitable explanation is that I momentarily forgot, due either to distraction or my euphoria at Bear's rescue, that he wasn't a real member of the family. 'Cause, let me tell you, he just...projects. My little sister used to pretend to be an alligator, and she was so convincing, one couldn't help but recoil. Let's blame this on an over-active imagination; it's not that I'm incapable of distinguishing what's real, it's just that I have trouble transitioning.

I've never "lied" to my kids about Santa et al; instead I've told them it's fun to pretend things, but I don't want them to be confused about false faith in the "The Great Easter Bunny, who died in a diabetic coma for our sins" versus real faith in God. It's just that the tooth fairy doesn't feel real, and Bear does. I've spent nine years dealing with the hyperactive little creature, putting him in time out (oh, so often!), even writing stories, including two biographies, about his adventures.

I felt it was a mistake to blur the line between the unseen realm of the Divine and the unseen world of imagination.

Now I faced an existential question: was this what came of writing a silly story about Bear wanting to get baptized? Would I be required to suppress that narrative as part of my penance? Where was the right balance?

I decided that if I saw a child playing and pretending to have a stuffed animal pray, I wouldn't say anything. I don't interfere when Hyperbole (Jeff's stuffed bull) crosses horns and hooves during family prayer. I didn't intervene when Daniel played apostate versions of "church" when he was four. It's different when apostasy is parent-authorized, though, so I determined to talk to my kids about it during scriptures that night, explain my mistake, and announce a new policy to prevent a recurrence.

This led to...


[At family scripture study.]

Gail: Today I made a mistake. I let Bear say a prayer, and then I felt bad about it, because--Um. So, I've never lied to you about Santa or the Tooth Fairy. I mean, I want to encourage you to pretend things, but we all need to remember that..." [awkward pause while Gail looks around to see if Bear is listening] "...that Bear isn't real. But don't tell him I said that! Oh dear, I'm sending mixed messages here. Um, Jon--help?"
Jon: [Sits silently, eyes twinkling]
Gail: You're not helping!
Jon: I've never seen you trip over your words like this. [He looks inscrutable, except for his eyes, which were totally, I mean TOTALLY, mocking me.]
Gail: Okay, see, now I have this awful dilemma. Because on the one hand, I feel guilty saying that Bear isn't real. It's kind of like committing murder. [Gail gulps and forces herself to obey the higher law] On the other hand, it's more important to worship God. And I want everyone to have real faith in God, who is real, and not faith in stuffed animals, who, technically, aren't...
Daniel: [picks up a stuffed wolf and mimes it attacking me in retaliation for my prejudicial assertions.]
Gail: [Gets a grip on herself.] Okay. Stuffed animals are not real. I mean, they are not real people. We need to be reverent in our prayers. So, no more stuffed animal prayers. That's the new rule.
Jon: Okay, no more praying to stuffed animals!
[Eric and Daniel crack up.]
[Gail laughs helplessly and hysterically.]

EPIC parenting fail. And Jon, you were NOT HELPFUL.


I laughed for ages. I coughed, I wheezed, I had an asthma attack. I felt guilty about possibly being irreverent, and I wanted to apologize to Heavenly Father, but I thought it wouldn't be a good idea to pray while I was still giggling uncontrollably. Saying "I'm really sorry that I--hahahaha!" didn't seem to send the right message, somehow. Of course, my inability to stop laughing just made the guilt worse, but that tension made the situation more comic, which made me laugh even harder. It was a comedic spiritual death spiral.

"I will repent in sackcloth and ashes," I typed on facebook, mirthful tears streaming down my cheeks, "as soon as the hyperventilating stops."

Carolyn commented her belief that "all stuffed animals go to Heaven!" I agreed that there was no reason a resurrected person couldn't have a teddy bear, provided he doesn't engage in, say, idol worship. Then I reminisced, "
I had that dream once where Bear was physically manifesting in the spirit world. I paused to think 'But...that should be impossible!' (Not that Bear was independently mobile, but that he was corporeal.) Then I shrugged and thought 'Well, we all know he's a REALLY talented Bear...'"


[Kids go to bed] 
[Gail continues giggling uncontrollably. Eventually she starts wheezing asthmatically.]
Gail: I'm going to--hahaha--go get a drink of water.
Jon: Don't pee your pants, no matter how much you want to.

: [Looks around for weaponry. Spots Hyperbole (Jeff's stuffed bull) and uses him to whack Jon repeatedly]

: [Deadpan] That poor stuffed animal....and he can't even pray for help. [Pause] Now, if he had a rameumpton...

Gail: [collapses again, unable to breathe]

Incapable of speech, I typed this note to him via facebook:

"Okay, Jon Stanley Berry. Don't blame me if you get stuck driving me to urgent care tonight. In the event that I am unable to communicate, due to asphixiation-induced unconsciousness, kindly remember to bring Hippocrata as my comfort animal. She's one of the two hippos; not Herodotus, he's the gray one. If you can't find her quickly, try yelling 'Is there a doctor in the house?' She ought to respond immediately.

Carolyn commented quickly: "Not that it was ever in doubt, but Jon has forever earned his Homer street cred with the line: 'That poor stuffed animal....and he can't even pray for help.'"

I answered, "I know!
Most of the time Jon sits there quietly, getting all the jokes and being amused, but not actively participating. But then, every so often, he busts out with something so this perfect deadpan...amazing!"


I prayed last night, privately, and apologized. I felt like Heavenly Father's attitude was, "Well, don't do it again. But...hahaha! That was one of the best laughs I had all day."

I'm glad He has a sense of humor; otherwise I would be utterly doomed.

My goal in life is to make someone laugh every day. If I made God means at least I accomplished something yesterday, right?

Also, my reflection gave me insight, as it is supposed to do. I think the problem is that I am still childlike in my imagination. I'm just as attached to my "talking" stuffed animals as Sam is to his monsters. So, don't think of me as a heretic. Think of me as an overgrown three-year-old who sometimes has trouble shifting between real and pretend spheres.

I believe in God, and I believe in showing Him reverence. I also enjoy pretending things, and occasionally that gets out of hand. Yesterday was an example of what happens when worlds collide, not with a bang, but with a very messy "splat!"


If nothing else, I have a new quote for the ages: "Bear isn't real, but don't tell him I said that."

I think it's my new #1 "Mommiest Moments" quote, narrowly edging out the decade-old classic "Wash your hands before you pick your nose!!!"

Speaking of being a mommy, I should stop writing and get to work on my long "to do" list. I've been neglecting it.

If you'll excuse me, I need to go pretend to be a real grown up.


Anonymous said...


I just read your follow-up posts on the Bear Prayer episode, and I laughed uncontrollably for a long time.

If any repentance is still needed, it should probably be mine. I never should have started those Reginald the Dragon stories when you were four years old.


Gail said...


Bless you for your comment! I thought that you in particular would laugh, and laugh, and laugh...

I'm still snickering at myself. I'm trying to imagine how much more uproariously I will guffaw if--oh, please, let it happen!--if something similar happens to Daniel in twenty years...(BWAHAHAHA!)

Ah, cosmic, comic justice. I hope your own decades-long wait was worth it.