As the kids get older, it has become easier to pass the time during car rides, while standing in lines, or when waiting for the school bus. In the past few months, we have played a lot of “Would you rather…” The more we play, the better questions we get. Sure, my 5-year-old will still ask something like “Would you rather eat pizza or mashed potatoes?” But my 9-year-old? He’s posed some deep, thought-provoking questions lately; questions which demand reflection and honesty.
My son is inquisitive; he desires to learn and understand. He is an intelligent, logical thinker and I have always felt the need to be honest and straightforward with him. Somehow, I believe he can sense when I am not. When he was 6, we began to get the questions about Santa Claus. With his logical view of the world, he just knew that Santa could not be real. Yet he seemed hesitant to know the truth – he struggled to convince himself that this magical Christmas gift-giver could be real! (Something most kids do at some point – but perhaps not at age 6.) He finally had to ask – and I felt I could not lie. So I didn’t.
So on one recent morning before school, my son and I are standing in the bathroom to brush teeth. He poses this question: “Would you rather be happy and content your entire life and NOT believe in God, or have a very difficult life and believe and trust in God?”
Well, I of course know the answer I am supposed to give! “Of course I would choose the second – I’d rather have a difficult life, but believe in God!” But I felt that quick and easy answer would be unfair to my son. If I’m being honest, that is not an easy question to answer! An easy life is tempting; what does it really mean to choose God over an easy life? So I was honest about my reaction, and my son and I then had the opportunity to discuss. (Well, as much discussion as you can have while scrambling to get ready for school in the morning with a 5-year-old around – but sometimes you take what you can get.)
We talked about joy through belief in God, difficult life or not. We talked about the flaw in the question itself – life, of course, doesn’t work that way. It is impossible to be human and avoid pain or sorrow. Knowing that reality, it is faith which keeps us moving forward. We talked about what it would be like to not believe in God. It was honest; it was real; it was intimate! I loved how an honest response to a simple question posed to simply pass the time prompted a moment of real-ness with my son.
I told my son this morning that I would be writing about his question today. This gave us the opportunity to discuss his question even more – an added benefit! But as we concluded our conversation, my son said something so perfect. He said that regardless of which answer we pick, God is with us through life either way – so we might as well be aware of it! Simple, yet deeply theological!
My son and I are similar in so many ways. In this faith journey we call human existence, we both find rewarding spiritual moments through quiet discussions, reading and intimate conversations. I look forward to the many questions the two of us will ponder together!
“But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and now faint.” Isaiah 40:29 ESV