“Why did God let Adam and Eve eat the apple?”
“Mama, what is love? How do I know if I love everyone?”
“Why does God let me throw up? Does God think this is for my good?”
Phew! Being a mama to curious children is tricky. I don’t know about you, but I really sometimes wish that they would just accept that that is the way it is! Sometimes when I hear them I worry – Is that a seed of doubt? Will this be the point where their faith starts to unwind? And I also have these questions… these doubts. I also am still learning, still understanding, still growing in my faith. How can I shepherd them when I am still in need of shepherding? By God’s grace and strength and wisdom, not my own. That is how.
The truth is that God wants and needs us to question things. He gave us free will so that we could be companions with him. He does not want us to blindly obey, he wants us to choose to obey, to trust Him enough to obey. Isn’t that the same thing that we want of our children – them to chose to obey us? If it is not I think we need to reexamine our motives and long term goals. We will only be able to overpower our children for so long, using that as our discipline system will not reap the rewards for them that we hope.
So when the questions arise – and I hope they will – there are a few things I try to remember that I will share here. And remember – questioning a sign that they care enough to think deeply about these things.
- You don’t need to know all the answers. Only God knows everything. Let your kids know your interested and that you care. “I don’t know. That’s a really good question!” or, if you don’t think it’s a great question be sincere “Hm. I had never thought about that. I wonder if someone else has before?”
- Work together to think of answers – or find the answer. If you don’t have time right then, suggest they remind you later and jot it down. Look for Orthodox websites, ask your priest, search the scriptures. Or if it’s a question without an answer that we know of (“What does heaven look like?”) brainstorm ideas together and help guide the conversation.
- Try not to be threatened by the questions. Sometimes it almost feels like heresy when our children ask things or say things – “Well Jesus wasn’t God’s son, he was Mary’s.” or “I’m sure Jesus sinned when he was a little kid.” Or sometimes it feels like you need to defend things: “Those prayers aren’t true because I still have bad dreams even when I cross myself before sleep.” or “God is just treating us like dolls in a dollhouse.” Take a deep breath, ask God for wisdom. Help identify the feelings if there are some. “You are feeling so worried/angry/sad right now.”
- Help them learn that doubt and faith can live hand in hand. Are there any of you that don’t have your moments of doubt still? If we don’t know that we can have doubts and still believe then the roots of our faith are still shallow and we are at risk of being swept away. The world is full of temptations, illusions and sin and our faith is still weak. Even the apostles, who were with Jesus for 3 years and witnessed his miracles, sometimes doubted: “Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.” (Matthew 28:16-17). And we “who have not seen” with our physical eyes are even more blessed for our efforts. Each year we read the healing of the son in Mark 9 where we hear the father’s honest prayer: “Lord I believe. Help my unbelief.” And Jesus heals the son. God knows we are imperfect, full of doubt and restlessness and he blesses our effort. We must never give up.
Most importantly we must always remember that we are not alone in bringing our children to God – God is guiding them too. Our role is to help create the environment for them to hear God’s calling (a mighty task), to model for them what we know to be true and good, to love them as feircly and unconditionally as He loves us and to pray.
May our every effort be blessed.
With love in Christ,