Cookie Cutter Faith

My kids and I went to a wedding out-of-town this past weekend. At the wedding, they gave out fortune cookies. My 6-year-old daughter opened hers and read “You will find a treasure soon.

The next morning we were driving around looking for an alternative to the planned hike because it was raining. I turned in at a sign that said, “Horseback riding.” It was a holiday weekend and we didn’t have reservations so I didn’t think we’d be able to ride but maybe we could see some horses, my daughter’s favorite animal even though she’d never actually touched one. Yet.

But they booked us for a ride. As my daughter sat atop a big quarter horse named Comanche, I could hear her tell the guide. “I got a fortune cookie and it said that I would find a treasure. It was right – THIS IS MY TREASURE.”

I chuckled but as the weekend went on she repeated the story a few more times adding at the end, “I need another fortune cookie.” I grew a little uneasy. Surely I needed to inject a little reality to this fortune cookie madness.

Wait a minute – my post last week for Pointless Overthinking centered on Albert Einstein’s quote “There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as if everything is a miracle.” And I’m clearly on Team Miracle. So why was I feeling the need to put the kibosh on her finding some magic in fortune cookies?

Because I’m a parent and I want her to believe in something more substantial that involves some responsibility and transcendence. Because I don’t want her to be disappointed.

It made me think of all the years that I didn’t discuss my faith with my beloved dad because I feared my spiritual beliefs weren’t religious enough. When I finally found the chutzpah to do it, we had deep and meaningful conversations about life, family and love. And it turned out that life and his 40 years as a pastor had instilled in him a bigger idea than the Presbyterian party line. In the end, he called himself a big tent guy. “In a way I have become less cocky or confident because I thought I had things all figured out early on, but now I know I have general things figured out, but the fact is that we differ in this huge tent of the family of faith on different things.

And then he went on to paint a picture of how my yoga/meditation/spiritual practice related to his beliefs in a unifying way:

“I’ve thought this often about you and your world with all the disciplines that are so wonderfully therapeutic. It seems to me that Christ is equally as present and could be equally named and known to you. The disciplines in a sense are more along the horizontal level than perhaps the vertical level (reaching up to God) and Christ honors anything that makes us more what God wants us to be.

I am thrilled with what is happening in you in this journey and one of the great benefits is that it brings us closer.  When kids follow in a trail similar to their parents, it creates one more way they can be close and can relate with each other … and in this case relate deeply and lastingly.”

Dick Leon

Thinking back to what I learned from talking with my dad, I think of all the time I didn’t talk about faith because of fear that it wouldn’t measure up. In the end, I realized that no two people see faith in exactly the same way, no matter how unified their theology is. Instead, there’s room in the tent for all of us.

I have faith that my daughter will grow up to experience God in her own nuanced way and I don’t need to fear it will be Fortune Cookie religion. So why not find some magic in it? After all, my fortune was “Your hard work will pay off soon.

What about you? Do you talk about faith in your family? Do fortune cookies count as miracles?

For most posts like this – a little story-telling mixed with philosophy, please visit my personal blog at https://wynneleon.wordpress.com or follow me on Instagram @wynneleon

To read more about my conversations with my dear dad, check out my book Finding My Father’s Faith.

(featured photo from Pexels)


23 thoughts on “Cookie Cutter Faith

  1. Great post! Like many children who were irradiated with Catholicism, I became deeply skeptical of all faiths.

    But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to distinguish between religions and faith. I love the idea that people can find their own pathways. As for me, given the scope of the universe, I struggle to believe there’s a conscious entity who can claim authorship for it all.

    But I also know that I – and frankly, all of us – can’t hope to comprehend anything like the Truth. So, I just try to be as kind as I can be (which many times is not a very impressive level) and try to muster as much forgiveness – for myself and everyone (again, not nearly the amount others seem to able to).

    As has often been said, faith is perhaps like a talent for drawing or having perfect pitch. For some, it comes naturally, for others, it will always elude them. For me, knowing there’s no way to know means it makes easier to default to humility, which is not the worst thing to be.

    1. Default to humility – that’s a great position to take, Jack! I agree with your many excellent points here. There’s a Franciscan priest, Father Richard Rohr who contends that anyone that has a genuine spiritual experience describes it as Love – not the laws and the rules that we often resort to in our quest for certainty about something unknowable. So your kindness and forgiveness sound pitch perfect to me! Thanks for reading and weighing in!

      1. It’s a lot easier said than done for me, I’m afraid. But I love the quote by Father Rohr. Dostoyevsky, an unpleasant man of very deep faith, says that to love someone is to see them as God does, which is a nice way of looking things, I s’pose

      2. To love someone is to see them as God does – that does sound like a nice way of looking at things but one that leaves me wondering if I’m qualified. I’m just trying to work at it every day thinking of Mark Twain’s quip, “Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection.”

  2. Do I talk about my spirituality within my family? It depends upon to whom I am speaking. Those who are open and receptive are likely to get an earful; those who are not, don’t. The same is true of my circle of friends. Sadly, the percentage of open-mindedness is minimal. The best we (I) can do under such circumstances is keep my mouth shut and spread light and love. 😌

    1. Spread light and love – that is beautiful, Julia! And something you do awfully well too! What you describe sounds a lot like my dad – he’d talk with those who were willing and just stay present with anyone that was not. It often worked rather well!

      Sending light and love to you!

      1. I love your dad! I’m just finishing your lovely book about him.

  3. Thank you, Wynne, for sharing another amazingly rich post. I loved it all, but the following strongly resonated: “I have faith that my daughter will grow up to experience God in her own nuanced way and I don’t need to fear it will be Fortune Cookie religion.” I believe the key word in that sentence is “experience.” This is what the historical Buddha and Jesus spoke about. Anything less than experience is a concept of Truth, which is, of course, a false idol.

    Great work! 🙏

    1. What an interesting comment, Art. I hadn’t thought very much about the construction of that sentence except to feel it all the way through but your emphasis on the word “experience” is so telling. Right! Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment!

      1. It was, as always, Wynne, a pleasure to read your work.

    1. Yes, Dr. Stein! It is the ultimate Unknowable and yet we try to find certainty about it and when we do, reduce it all. May we all stay open to having more questions than answers as you say so well!

  4. Love this Grace! Your daughter might be the next preacher for fortune cookies 🥠! I think you’re on to something in that both you and your dad lived the truth that there are many ways to think about God. I taught my children to think for themselves and they do! None of them believe in God the same way I do and that’s ok. We need a society that can be who they want and believe the same or else rebellion is often the result sometimes ending in tragedy unfortunately 💕

    1. I’m laughing about the preacher for fortune cookies, Victoria! I love your affirmation that you taught your kids to think for themselves — and they do. That sounds wonderful to me as does your openness to how they’ve come to believe. You are right we need to give people that leeway — or else!! What a wonderful comment!

  5. In my early 20’s I started attending my wife’s church (she was just a girlfriend at the time). We liked the pastor and cantor there very much and started becoming friends with them. As a kid who was raised Catholic but was never really happy about it, I had loads of “big tent” thoughts that I was sure would be criticized heavily by my two new clergy friends. Fortunately I was wrong- I was surprised how open they were to many ways of thinking, believing, not believing, and being. Beautiful and meaningful conversations happened often, I learned a lot from those two. They were, and still are, very big influences in my life. Your great story reminds me of them- thanks!

    1. I love this comment, Todd. It affirms that our leaders of faith that are open do so much good in allowing those meaningful conversations to happen. It’s so fun and electric when that happens – and to my way of thinking is more important than dogma. Thanks for sharing this story, Todd!

  6. We don’t talk about faith in my family, we talk mainly about politics. When I visited Israel some years ago, I came back home plenty of things to tell about the Holy Land. Cities like Bethlehem, Nazareth, Jerusalem, where you see the three monotheistic religions sharing the space, left me speechless and also today I don’t understand why they cannot leave in peace. And here again comes politics. We are so set, I guess. But under the tent there is space for us too, isn’t it? Beautiful post Wynne, as always.

  7. Religion well explained in the treasure which lies on the fortune cookie 😊

    Sometimes, what we see is not actually what we want. But the hope of seeing what we desired for (treasure in the cookie) will give us strength and hope to strive more in life…

    LIFE IS IN DIFFERENT UNDERSTANDING THO.

  8. I am happy to see hope and faith in encouraging things, even if coincidence. If a fortune cookie brings joy, who is to argue? If I find faith in a sunset, or a friendly dog that passes by with its owner, is someone going to tell me that I am being trivial?

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