Driving home through the light fog and traffic from the park this morning, my four-year old son said to me, “Mom, I was down by the trees and I thought to pray, it was so quiet.”
This was not a reference to Joseph Smith. I asked him if he knew who Joseph was, he didn’t. This was just my tiny boy navigating this world with something greater than knowledge or reason as his compass.
And a compass really is such a simple instrument. My husband is a geologist and spends many weeks alone in the Ruby mountains of Nevada each summer. His grandfather’s compass was passed down to him and he says that there are days when its company is a comfort, and maybe the only piece that reminds him he belongs to more than just the earth, but to people as well. That fragile spinning arrow reliably pointing him north, just as it did generations before him.
My heart, which is deeply entwined in the generations behind me, and equally yoked to the children I’m preparing to be a part of this world, is that fragile compass and I’m not always sure what it is telling me. I know I don’t speak for myself when I say that my mormon heart is a bit broken since November. A broken heart, of course, is a trite metaphor for something that really means part sadness, part joy, part defeat and part liberation, part weakness and part stronger than I’ve ever felt.
But in all this, in the quiet way my son thought to pray down by the oak tree when no one was around, my heart is also doing the work of sifting through. The work religion asks of me, and the work I’m afraid I wouldn’t make time to do without it right now.
This holiday season, as Christmas approaches, I have realized that in order for my compass to prompt me toward peace, I cannot expect it to give me the answers to everything, or even much. Right now, I picture the fragile arrow beneath the glass pointing northward, toward a star, and toward a babe that will eventually grow and be an example of the best and most valiant lover of humanity I know. I care about so little else this season because my own sanity and peace demand it. I care that there is something so real and tender that weaves the spirit of my little boy and prompts him to pray. He did not tell me what he prayed about, but I can imagine because I hear him every night—thank you for the birds, for the ocean, the mountains, my friends, I will help people who need help, I want to be like Jesus, I will be a friend.