“Just one book before bed, Mommy.”
These tired eyelids are reluctant, but I force my head to nod “ok”. After all, I couldn’t possibly give him the impression that the preceding scooter time or “rock and roll” dance time while wearing nothing but underwear and toy safety goggles are more important than learning to read.
Sensing my less than enthusiastic answer, he runs over to the bookshelf and grabs the biggest book he can find: the dictionary. “Um, no. Try again.” I snuggle up on the couch, having complete faith that he will return with Clifford or Elmo or, at the longest, a Dr. Seuss book. You can imagine the look on my face when he returns with nothing other than the Bible.
I stare at it briefly, trying to come up with the most convincing way to talk him into The Hungry Caterpillar.
“I want THIS one Mommy-the one with the Jesus stories.”
And I immediately feel a tug of guilt. Obviously I can’t turn down his request. But gosh, this one takes energy—you know, that thing that I used on 6 loads of laundry, 3 meals, 3 snacks, and bath time for the 1 year old and 3 year old…not to mention scooter time and dance time.
He knows this book’s different. It’s real. And his questions are real. And real scary for parents who are trying their best to guide him down the right path.
How can I answer all of his questions when I don’t have all of the answers myself? Of course I want him to share in the faith that I know and love, so why am I already intimidated by the questions that haven’t even come out of his mouth?
He doesn’t like his baby Bible; I guess he can sense that it’s lacking in detail. Instead he likes the one with the real life pictures that better suits a 9 or 10 year old who has already been introduced to concepts like death and disease. Each story is so detailed, so I give him a dumbed down version of them.
“Why were they mean to Jesus, Mommy?”
“Well, Mason, there are mean people in this world. And they didn’t like that Jesus told them he was God.”
“Why are there mean people, Mommy?”
“Well, honey, I don’t know. But there are a lot of really good people too, so I don’t want you to be scared of bad people.”
“Will the bad people be in heaven?”
“No. No mean people allowed.”
He seems satisfied with my answer (which is unusual) and turns the page to look at the ghostlike man standing in the cave. “Why is he not wearing shoes, Mommy?”
A wave of relief comes over me. I can handle these questions, piece of cake!
“What happened to his body, Mommy?” Ok, disregard the cake comment.
“Why did they hang him on the tree?”
“Why did Moses’ mommy put him in the water?”
They’re only going to get harder.
I do my best to give him answers. I’m not going to lie to him. It’s confusing. It seems weird. I don’t have a clue why Satan spoke through a snake to a man and woman who lived in a garden. But I tell him what I know in the most simple way possible.
Sometimes, I say, “Honey, I don’t know the answer to that one” to which he normally replies, “Why not, Mommy?”
Yeah, why not, Kristin?
Well, I guess I need to do some more studying. I don’t want to give him answers that I haven’t confirmed for myself.
Some questions just won’t have an answer, at least not in this world.
The “whys” are normal. We should all be asking “whys”. I used to think I would outgrow them, but the older I get, the more I have. I’m not satisfied with merely accepting what I learned in younger years.
“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” 1 Peter 3: 15
I didn’t include that last sentence for the sake of finishing the verse. I think Peter included the “gentleness and respect” part because he saw Jesus teach with gentleness and respect. It is now my responsibility to teach Mason to share his faith (if he chooses to accept it) with these same qualities, knowing that not everyone will agree with his beliefs.
While part of me didn’t want to read the Bible tonight because of my lack of time and energy, part of me didn’t want to show Mason that Mommy is not the big book of answers that he thinks I am. What will he think when he learns that I sometimes question the answers I think I have? Will he be disappointed? Childhood, in a sense, starts to diminish at the realization that Mom and Dad and Grandpa and Aunt Sue and Uncle Larry aren’t God.
I don’t have to have all the answers. That’s why it’s called “faith”. I didn’t see Jesus for myself, but “faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1. I have chosen to believe despite not having all of the answers. And whether or not he believes…well, that’s up to him.
The deeper we got into his Bible, the more relaxed I became responding to his questions. At the same time, I was convicted of complacency. I need to keep learning if I want him to. I need to keep a childlike faith that keeps asking “why”. The questions are part of the journey.
As we wrapped up Bible story #5, I realized that he had no interest in Clifford or Elmo tonight. And that is ok.
No, that is more than ok.