Children notoriously ask difficult questions, but what happens when a child’s difficult questions challenge mom’s faith? Or when the task of teaching your child faith raises concerns in your own heart and mind?
Mom, what if God doesn’t cure our sick friend?
Mom, what are we supposed to say when we pray to God?
Mom, where is God when bad things happen?
Mom, why did Jesus have to die?
Passing on faith to our children is the perfect opportunity to deconstruct and reconstruct our own faith. It means checking and double-checking that what we are passing along is what we actually want to pass along rather than simply a script we were given that may not fit our lived truth. Deconstructing faith might not sound like something that a religious leader would recommend, but our faith systems shouldn’t be threatened or intimidated by such a process. Digging into the inner workings of your faith is a healthy spiritual practice. Questioning should be celebrated not silenced.
There’s this story in scripture where Jacob wrestles with God and keeps wrestling with God saying he won’t stop until he receives a blessing. Wow. That’s gutsy. I can’t say that I have ever felt confident enough to demand a blessing from God, especially not when my faith is on shaky ground. But I look to that story for permission to wrestle and for the hope that doing so will lead to an unexpected gift.
I think of it like this. One day, one of my children got a ball stuck in a tree. He was just innocently throwing it and the wind caught it right up in between two branches, and just like that, the toy of the hour was robbed from our playtime, suspended there above us. We stood looking up into that tree so helplessly wondering what we could do, until we thought to throw another ball right up there to knock it down. But, sure enough, that second ball got caught right next to it. Now we had lost the ball we were playing with and the helper ball in a matter of moments.
That’s how it can be to pick apart our understanding of God. If you put a concept under the microscope and readdress what you believe about it, it’s likely another adjacent idea will also have to be reevaluated.
If God is good and yet God allows bad things to happen, is God really in control?
If God’s love and grace are unconditional, do my good works actually help me earn entry into heaven?
Does God really want women to stay silent?
If God is love, how could God ever condemn any one of his children into eternal damnation?
You might look up and find that the framework for your faith is all torn apart hanging in the sky above you, unsure of where all the pieces will land. That’s okay. Most of them will land, just like our misplaced balls did. It may take help from a ladder, a tall neighbor, or a windstorm, but they will land. Your pieces may arrive in a new place, reprioritized or reconfigured, but they will land back on solid ground.
Recently, Christian author Jen Hatmaker brought her college-aged daughter on her podcast, For The Love. She shared a regret, and I am hoping that I and others can learn from her mistake. When she and her husband were rigorously reevaluating a high held tenant of her faith, she confessed that she wished she had brought her daughter along for that journey in real-time. They had done it privately, shielding the daughter from the messiness of the process. But in doing so, they harmed their daughter and missed the chance to model faith that can withstand wrestling.
I pictured a mom saying to her daughter “this is what we have always been taught, but we are reevaluating that stance, reading books, educating ourselves on this topic, praying about it, and here is what we are learning. Some of it is still unsure, and being unsure is OK for a little while. We are confident that in the end we’ll have a deeper faith.”
Questioning our religious values could be misinterpreted as disrespectful or disobedient, but what is the use in a faith that only blindly and robotically obeys without engaging the head and heart anyway? You might be wondering what you can say or how to teach faith or how to answer your child’s questions if your own answers are hanging in the balance. Maybe you begin to shift your interpretation of faith from a strict set of beliefs all wrapped up in a pretty little package to trusting in God even when we don’t have all the answers.
Shouldn’t a momma have stuff pretty much figured out if she is going to guide her own child’s faith development? Maybe, instead, a momma’s role is less about doling out answers and more about journeying alongside our little ones as we wrestle with God together. It can be a lonely path, but rest assured there are communities and books and podcasts to turn to and there are real life Kansas City moms doing this work. And after the wrestling match, not only will you walk away with a deeper, truer faith, you will have modeled brave faithfulness to your children as well.