Sometimes I have to admit I am gullible. I was convinced, totally convinced, that my wife wanted a boy for our second child. I even steeled myself to name him after my twin, and Mrs Pewsitter enthusiastically agreed. Or maybe it was the extended conversations about how nice little boys were.
Girl, was I wrong.
Come the birth it was obvious that a female had been wished for.
Now this perhaps it was just my blokey lack of awareness. But this story had a good outcome. (Or two good outcomes counting non-boy number two.)
Because my family decided to adopt ‘Sylvia’s rules’.
They are the best gift my big sister ever gave me. Sylvia’s rules are a recipe for family dispute solving. To keep Sylvia’s rules you have to say what you really think.
The movie you want to see, not the one you think your partner wants to see. The fact that you don’t want to go to a party. Or that I would rather go to church than the theatre (improbable but true).
Under Sylvia’s rules it is absolutely forbidden not to reveal what you really, really want to do, even if it feels selfish.
Sylvia’s rules cut the tension when the Christian round of submitting to the other has become too much and you really don’t know what each other wants any more. Instead of the fog of war, sometimes Christians have the fog of nice.
You wouldn’t want to live by Sylvia’s rules all the time – I know she doesn’t – but they contain a neat paradox. Saying what I want to do helps me let it go as we negotiate and seek a way forward.
There are some places where Sylvia’s rules are not needed. The state parliament. Synod. Parish council – at least at St Pewsitter’s. But from this pew it seems that talking to God may be a time we need Sylvia’s rules the most.
The fog of niceness affects the language of prayer: “Lord we JUST ask you…” As though making our request sound small will please our generous God. It is the church version of what kids do when they say “pretty please”. I am not asking for much and look at my cute smile.
Under Sylvia’s rules in prayer you cut to the chase and ask God for a lot, because that’s the naked truth and we have nowhere to hide.
And you tell God what you really think of him. Demand answers to questions. Bring your feelings to him. “Why isn’t my child like every body else’s?”
The risk we take in Sylvia’s rulesing with God is we will be told that we are no Steve Irwin (Job 41:1). The prayers when I have told God what I really think – when I have brought him my frustration and desperation, sadness or humiliation – are the ones that have always been answered.