I read this story in a book by Fr. Thomas Keating, a Trappist Monk. I can’t remember which of his books it was in so I’m taking a bit of a liberty re-telling it, but I’m sure that you will ‘get it’. It’s one of those stories that can turn your perceptions upside down, it stays with you for a while and becomes the lens through which you begin to ‘see’.
There was a man who tells the story of his childhood. He grew up in a very strict household where there were many restrictions and rules that had to be obeyed. One was that he should not eat anything between meals. His mother kept a cookie jar in the kitchen and though it was always a temptation, his mother would say, ‘you are not allowed to eat any of those cookies, and remember, God is always watching!’ So this boy grew up with the ‘remember, God is watching’ mentality.
Wanting to always please God, he followed all the rules. When he grew up he entered a religious order. One with lots of rules, the strictest and most austere order he could find. It was only many years later, after following all the rules, much discernment and many prayers that he had this revelation:
In prayer he realized that if God were watching that cookie jar all those years ago……when he was tempted to take a cookie God would have said…..’Go ahead, and take two….’
God is always watching……to criticize, to judge, to condemn…..or to love??? What is the motivation behind our relationship with God, fear or love? I think God desires our love.
I guess it all comes down to this….
Is our God a ‘GOTTCH YA’ God?
‘WELCOME BACK’ God?
Oh so very true! Legalism is a biggie as well. Great post. Blessings.
Thanks JBR – have a cookie or two today.
It’s amazing how so much of what we believe and feel can come down to simple perception. The beauty of it is that we can control this lens. I like to put a positive spin on my own perception as often as I can and see life in an uplifting way!
And that positive spin is evident in your writings…you lift others up as well.
I have recently being listening to an audio book with Fr Keation and Fr. Rohr called “Healing the Inner Violence”, they are absolutely wonderful. In it, Fr. Keaton relates similar incedents such as the boy, the cookie and God.
Like you, I happen to love the idea of the welcome back God. And Joanne’s comment regarding our perception is so true.
Thank you for this Andie!
You’re welcome Daily. Fr. Keating is wonderful and filled with great wisdom…truly the fruits of his prayer.
That is an enlightening story. I think God’s main “rules” are there to protect us. They are not arbitrary. Morals make life easier for us here. 🙂 And the greatest commandment is love, just sometimes we argue about how to define that love. For me, I feel like I’m beginning to understand God’s love. And his love is a particular type of freedom… it is situational for me as well.
Great thoughts Jade. And you are so right everything God does is because he loves us.
If God was watching the cookies jar then He was obviously not watching the sweets jar, and the child should have raided the second jar.
Sorry … couldn’t resist.
I hope God has a sense of humour and will not punish me for this.
God bless you Andie.
Oh Victor, I’m sure God has a sense of humor….great point about the sweets jar, ummmm, making me hungry.
So God is watching. And God knows *why* God is watching. The way we answer the question of why, however, tells us less about God and much, much more about our relationship with him. Thanks for this reflection today, Andie!
So true Kim..it does speak of our relationship with him.
He watches because He “is not willing that any should perish,” I believe. He watches because He loves us with an everlasting love; we’re worth dying for in His eyes! Rules are necessary, but for our good – not because He’s a cruel taskmaster.
I totally agree Glenda. Like a gentle parent watching and loving us.
that “story” is probably applicable to many people …
I think that you are right Susan. From time to time I think that it’s important for all of us to take another look at that story.
What a wonderful metaphor!
Yes, Fr. Keating is a gem….filled with great monastic wisdom
of course, it depends on the temptation. If it is cookies, sure, take two. If something sinful . . . He says “flee every youthful lust” (St. Paul to Timothy).
Ah I’m feeling it for the harried parent here- the ploys that parents use to keep their offpspring “in order”are ever inventive.
It’s all about balance and humour . If this warning was counterbalanced with a joke and an admission from the parent that they too filch the cookie from time to time then it could be funny. It could also be used as a springboard to open up the concept of morality and ethics in a simple way. It could lead to a good open discussion of “What if I did take a cookie ?” What would I say to God etc etc….
However if it’s part of an overarching prevailing atmosphere of oppressive sanctions and an atmosphere of fear in a whole host of things in the home as i suspect the story is suggesting then yes, the kids are going to be in a sterile environment of faith and their perception of God is likely to be limited as judgemental.
As with all allegories there is some truth in the story. I like Keating- he has a wicked sense of humour !
Andie, I think of the prodigal son when I read this story…..we are all expecting the father to be harsh, but he welcomes his wandering son with open arms…..Lori