I always read the search engine terms that bring people to this blog. One yesterday had me shaking my head. The search term was “how can I convince my son to believe in God.” Oh, sister, I thought, have you found THE wrong blog. Especially because she (or it could be he) was directed to this entry where I talk about my kids not believing in God, believing in gods, and other wonders of the world. If you are looking for a way to convince your child of God’s existence and the importance of that belief in your child’s life, you surely won’t find that here.
You will find me talking about God, about my interpretation of God, of what is holy, of what is important, of what matters. But you won’t find me telling you what you have to believe, any more than my children will hear me telling them what they HAVE to believe. (Except that boys smell; they have to believe that. At least for now.)
My father, it appears, is entering the final stages of his life. My father was an ordained Methodist minister when I was born, but by the time I entered Kindergarten, he had quit religious ministry and church altogether. My father does not believe in God. For some people, this thought is terrifying. How can you die without believing in God? Some are quite certain, based on their idea of religion, that my father will go to Hell. Me? Based on my knowing of my father and my disbelief in heaven and/or hell, I would say that if heaven and hell exist, my father—fully human that he is—would stand just as much chance of taking the elevator up as he would down.
But, because I do believe in God and I do believe that we are all worthy, regardless of the deeds done here in thought or in action, the God of my understanding will welcome my father with open arms in death, just as that God has during his life. The Hell of my understanding is the absence of love, the absence of the capacity to love, the absence of the willingness to love. I think, too, that the Kingdom of Heaven, is, just as that Jesus guy said, before us, were we to open our eyes to see, our hearts to feel.
My father, though, believes neither in heaven nor in hell. He believes in this here earth, and us here people, and our capacity to do what we can and will to and for each other. He is a lover of fiction, of stories, of myth, and of the power of all of these to help us carve out lives of worth, of meaning, of truth. And, while he will deny the language, I say, that sounds like God to me.
I wish you all well, those of you who seek to convince others of God’s existence. But my experience remains as it has always been: God will show up. You may be expecting white robes but find dirty denim, instead. Or, you may find a daffodil poking up out of the snow. Or, someone may offer you a hand–or a shoulder–when you need it most. But God will show up, as God is wont to do, when we but open our eyes and see. And this is true for your child, too.
So just as you may try to convince them to brush their teeth twice each day, you may try to convince them God exists. But if, instead, you lead them to an experience of God, I think you will find there’s no need to instruct, or convince, or harrangue, because God will show up, by whatever name you assign.