Introducing your child to the concept and the reality of God – Part IV
We continue in this space our ongoing series on how to present the concept and reality of God to your offspring. Please know and understand this: your children will come home with questions. Even if you never open a discussion of God in your family, your children ultimately will. The notion of “God” is ubiquitous. It is not something you can avoid—or should want to. Rather, be there, be fully present, for your children when they have questions.
Theirs will not be unimportant questions, because we are talking here about the unknown (that is, about something that cannot be scientifically, statistically, or empirically proven), and when it comes to the unknown, our children (as I have tried to emphasize here) look to us for answers. And if our only reply is: “I don’t know; nobody knows,” that could leave our children, depending on their age, bewildered. It could also leave them—depending on what they hear about God from others and from the world at large—in a scary place.
Recently I spoke with a 40-year-old woman on this subject, and she told me that while her family did not speak much about God and belonged to no religion, she, as a child, had friends whose families did. And her parents encouraged and allowed her to investigate the concept of God and decide for herself what it meant.
So one week her friend’s family invited her to join their own child and go to church with them. Here is this woman’s own narrative, more than three decades later…
“I remember that I came home from my first church experience—I must have been six or seven—with the feeling that I had done something wrong, and that I had to bring Jesus into my heart or something really bad was going to happen to me, and so I lay in my bed night after night trying to bring Jesus into my heart, and feeling really stressed out about it.”
The church folks had presented their newcomer with a child’s Bible study reader, and in it this woman, when she was six or seven, read something about how God sent people to hell if they lived a gay lifestyle. And while she wasn’t quite sure at that age what a “gay” lifestyle was, she was clear about what “hell” was (her one visit to church having made it abundantly clear that it was a very bad place of terrible suffering). So this little girl said to her Mom, “I don’t want to believe in a God who hurts people.”
She remembers that her Mom replied, without equivocation: “Well, sweetheart, we don’t believe that God does hurt people, for any reason. Your father and I just don’t believe that.”
And that was the end of the fear for this little girl. Her parents’ word was good enough for her.
This is an important lesson. It is important to know, then, that—particularly at the youngest ages—your children look to you for guidance, not uncertainty; for clarity, not confusion; for wisdom, not bewilderment.
You cannot be a clear, wise, and helpful guide, however, if you yourself have not come to clarity about God.
And we will continue this series in our next entry here. We hope that all parents are receiving benefit from it.