I don’t know what the idea was, but the teacher of my confirmation class took us around to other churches. It must have been to broaden our horizons. It wasn’t other denominations, it was other religions. So one afternoon we went to the Jodo Mission Buddhist Temple, just down the street from our Methodist church in Lahaina. I had been there plenty of times before, so I was unimpressed by the beautiful landscaping and pagoda towering up. There was the largest statue of Buddha outside of Asia, fat, green and beaming down at us. And there was the Coke machine that my friend bowed before to be funny. (I thought it was a riot and wish I had thought of it.)
The pastor of the Buddhist Temple was delighted to show us around. I was already familiar with him and his family. His daughter was best friends with my sister. He took us in the actual temple. The rest of the class snickered at the reverend’s pious pause before particular artifacts. I shifted uncomfortably. The rest of my class was mostly neighborhood boys, 7th grade like me, that I avoided in school, mostly for fear.
The inside of the temple was exquisitely decorated. The pastor pointed out what some things were. That was when I was so impressed I nearly wet my pants. I thought then and there that this was the coolest church I had ever been to. And I wondered what my pastor had wanted by showing off other religions to us.
Well, I didn’t convert to Buddhism. What I actually saw in the temple that knocked my socks off was just a picture of a flower. The pastor had pointed to it and explained the flower's significance to the Buddhist religion. It was a lotus flower. A lotus. That was all it took to thrill me. A Lotus was the kind of car the James Bond drove in a recent movie which turned into a submarine. A Lotus Esprit was my dream car. Everywhere I went including school and most likely that field trip that day, I had a Hot Wheels® Lotus Esprit in my pocket. I had no idea that there was a flower with the same name as the coolest car in the world. But seeing a picture of that flower was all it took to make my day.
It’s been fun recalling and telling this story. And I try to convince myself that I blog mainly in order to practice my writing and have an obligation to write something legible at least once a week. I really try not to proselytize. But I want to point something out here from my story.
Some parents might object to a Christian church taking a field trip to a Buddhist temple. Who knows what ungodly dogma might cloud their little minds, right? Should you risk that? But the only thing I came away with in my head was a painting of a lotus flower that lent its name to a British sports car that I had a fondness for. I walked into that temple with an extreme liking for that car and walked out with the same. Who I was before that excursion was not compromised, just re-enforced.
The world is a scary place to turn kids loose into. I still tell my 15 year old to please look both ways before crossing streets. It’s just what I am that says that. Can I tell him to stay out of places of worship that do not adhere to what The Bible teaches? Well, yes I can. But if he were to wander in, perhaps to get a drink of water, who would he be when he walked out? It shouldn’t be my concern as much to where he goes, because I only have so much say over that. What I need to be most concerned about is not where he goes, but this: Who he is when he goes. That is all I really have a say in. Not where he is, but who he is.
His fondness for James Bond exceeds mine at that age, but not of cars. His integrity and resourcefulness still makes me proud.