We were driving around a lot last evening, my three girls and me (or is it I?) when the youngest said “The other day, I told Boy X I didn’t believe in God and he said [switch to dramatic baritone here] ‘I can never speak to you again.'”
She was in the far back so I couldn’t reach her to do what I wanted to do, which is my lame attempt at a high-five, but I did yell “Score!” Now, lest you think the entirely wrong thing about me and my response, what was going through my head was “One less boy to torment you with his tortuously inane blather.” And, by my tone (Valley Girl meets Latin soccer color-commentary person), I’m pretty sure she got that. But I did follow up with this, of the girl who still believes in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, “why don’t you believe in God?”
She did answer me, and I’m ashamed to say I don’t recall what she said, because sitting next to me was my oldest daughter who, heretofore, also rejected God, and now said “I’m starting to believe in a God.” Her reason? Because she’s learning the big bang theory in science and it’s too confusing. (Right now, the mother in me must add of this child who just made the National Junior Honor Society. I’m certain it will all make sense in the coming days and in the coming years, as she sorts out the big bang and God theories for herself.)
Now, this would have been the perfect opportunity for a good mom to step in and lay some groundwork for all her children’s theological perspectives. They’ve been given some at our Unitarian Universalist church, but it worries me that their dad and I, with our conflicting ‘God views,’ have given them a whole lot of perspective on what they could believe without giving them the tools to sort out what they DO believe.
It makes perfect sense to me that my youngest still believes in the Easter Bunny and in Santa Claus–because her dad and I work very hard to create and propogate that story. And so it makes perfect sense for her NOT to believe in God because we keep our God stories to ourselves, for the most part.
Her best friend who lives down the road attends a Bible church and has been instructed in opposite ways by her parents. There is a God, he lives in heaven where the streets are paved with gold, and he will send you to hell if you do not accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior. That’s their story and they’re sticking to it. (And to their credit, the parents know who we are, how we are and still allow their child to play with ours–actually, I think they insist on it, hoping that through this contact we will see the light and all be saved. They are good people who live their faith and that includes praying for those who do not believe–rather, who do not believe what they believe.)
But they taught their daughter there is no Santa (and she continues to try to convince my daughter the same, which has earned her a special place in pergatory in my book, but that’s a whole ‘nother blog entry) and all that other stuff and so that is what her young mind believes.
I, on the other hand, have taught fantasy and not what I hold to be true–because what I hold to be true is not as concrete, as structural, as the stories of Santa, the Easter Bunny, and the God who rules heaven and earth from a throne in the sky. It’s interesting to me that my oldest daughter is struggling with God as she struggles with the Big Bang theory, as that is exactly where I am. In my twisted theology, as best as I can share it, God IS the Big Bang theory. God is what exploded into a gabillion pieces and is now embodied in all our atoms, all our DNA. God is that which connects us, I tell myself and sometimes tell my children. Some would call it a web, but I don’t, as webs are made with gaps, where one may be connected to another through another, and that just doesn’t work for me. We are all connected or we are not. So I choose the former.
But that story just doesn’t resonate as a guy on a cross, who died for our sins–at least not for those who are 8. It’s too murky. Too fluid. Too structure-less.
I am grateful for all the encounters my children have with God and God stories. Even for the kid who won’t talk to my daughter because she doesn’t believe in God. It helps them to sort out for themselves what stories work and which ones don’t. I’m also grateful for a church community where they are given a variety of stories and the space to bring their questions–a place to know that the truth is out there, as well as in here, and that finding it will be their life’s work. Or not.
So, here’s my vow: to talk to them more about God, about what I believe and why. Hearing my views on God won’t interfere with their search for truth and meaning nearly as much as for them to encounter other people’s views as the only legitimate sources of God talk.
Still, if I’m struck by lightning in the coming days, feel free to instruct my children otherwise.