Actually, the title to this post should be “Talking to adults about God” because Amanda, eight, is forever instigating theological conversations with me. With Good Friday tomorrow, she asked me, “Did God die on Friday?”
“By God, you mean Jesus, don’t you?” I asked.
“Is Jesus God or the son of God?” she asked.
“He is God and the son of God,” I said. “A triune being. That means 3 people in 1.”
She was satisfied with my answer and I, pleased to be able to give her a satisfactory answer – the result of a childhood spent sampling various religions and an adulthood punctuated by countless Bible studies. Having said that, I’ve often wished she could be SECULAR like me. For while religion is worth knowing, it is a body of knowledge like any other. I discovered her spiritual inclinations when her pre-prep (that’s kindergarten for those of you outside of Oz) teacher came to me to report her inordinate time spent PRAYING in the school’s sand pit. Yes, you read correctly. She was PRAYING in the school sand pit. What was more astonishing was that she got her best friend, Lily, to pray with her, also in the school sand pit.
“What were they praying for?” I once asked their teacher.
“You and her father. Lily’s mother and father.”
Now you know why we, parents, become lifelong friends of our children’s pre-prep teachers. They know too much about us!
Since then, Amanda’s been insisting HRH and I pray before mealtimes, a habit she picked up from my now church-going parents. She chides us for “lack of manners” and “not remembering God” when we start eating before she’s finished her lengthy sermon. Often, it incorporates something she’s just learnt; while we were in Malaysia, it was poverty.
Her prayer, the first two days post arrival in Malaysia, went something like, “Dear God, Thank you for NOT making us poor and homeless. Thank you for giving us food and shelter. I pray we will NEVER be poor. Amen.”
Then, just Tuesday, when she fell off a school wall, tip-toeing along it precariously like I’d told her many a time not to, she said, “God doesn’t answer prayers.”
I said, “Why do you say that?”
“It’s because He didn’t stop me from falling off the wall.”
I’m happy God is so REAL for her, whereas for me He is simply a theoretical figure, but expecting him to part the clouds and put one big hand down to support her while she flagrantly disregarded my warnings seemed unreasonable, so I said, “You chose to walk that wall even though I told you not to. What does this have to do with God?”
“He could have allowed me to fall, but not to get injured.”
She sustained huge scrapes on both thighs from the fall.
“Yes, but would you have learnt your lesson not to walk on top of the wall? If He had allowed you to fall down without hurting yourself, would you even remember I’d told you not to climb the wall? Sometimes God allows us to get hurt because He wants to spare us bigger hurts down the the track.”
Bigger hurts like a broken neck or a broken heart. Today, it’s a fall from a school wall. Tomorrow, it might be a fall more spectacular; one that I, as a parent, can’t prevent any more than I could the fall from the school wall. I wanted her to know that in every aspect of life, we are given a choice. For God to stop us from doing something, however silly or self-sabotaging it may be, is to take away that choice. For instance, I choose to be secular and it has particular consequences: Amanda and I have arguments because she’s more worried about my lack of eternal salvation than I am.
Yesterday, she reported, “I’m the only kid in my school who prays every night before going to sleep.”
“Oh, is that what the mumbling I hear every night is all about?” I asked her.
“Yes. Why don’t you and Papa pray before going to bed too?”
“Papa is too busy reading the news while I’m too busy looking for shoes on eBay. Besides, we have you to pray for us.”
I hope when she grows up she doesn’t assume we’re all going to hell because we believe other than what she does. If there’s one thing I constantly stress to her during our talks is that God is love. We can split hairs until the cows come home about how this love manifests itself, but God is peace, God is hope and above all, God is love.
With that, let me wish you a Happy Good Friday and a blessed Easter! Have a good one!