Back Porch Theology

“The great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been.”
~Madeleine L’Engle

My theological education began on the back porch of my grandmother’s home in Nederland, Texas. Grandma Richey spoiled me with sugar butter sandwiches and soda in colorful metal cups that were so cold they stung my teeth. We would pad our way barefoot across the wood floor that at times offered up splinters, past the ringer washing machine that always frightened me for some unknown reason, and settle in for an evening picnic with sandwiches and soda. Grandma resembled the grey oak slats of the floor–narrow, rough, resilient, but you could glimpse the spunk in her eyes and she had much to say when it was just the two of us sitting behind screened-in shadows to the sound of bobwhites in the backyard. I asked more questions those days than I can recall, but what I do remember is how Grandma Richey gently guided me to a great God who loved me, and that the questions she could not or would not answer did not end in fear. Grandma’s God was larger than my questions. How I loved them both, and still do.

I’m uncertain if I ask more questions as I’m bending to my final trimester of years, or if I’m simply more honest and willing to admit the questions I haven’t had the courage to consider since I was a boy. Doing so exposes to prospects of far deeper learning, at least I hope so. As the white pearl said to King Rinkitink of Oz: “Never question the truth of what you fail to understand, for the world is filled with wonders.” Not all questions have answers, but it would be a shame not to ask. I’ve been swimming upstream in a river of darkness much of my life, but on my grandmother’s back porch I learned to trust what I could not explain.

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