I don't want to give my kids a faith that makes them afraid.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

"How was school?"

They clamor in, grubby hands full of backpacks and jackets. Predictably, the introvert is exhausted and the extrovert is energetic. Usually it's the more outgoing child who fills our ride home with his answer - what games they played, what his friends said, the gauge of the day's lunch (funny how academics never make the cut) - but today his brother climbed into the front seat and spoke up first. 

"We learned about how the universe began. All the classes came to my room and the teachers did a presentation."

"Really?" I said, genuinely interested. 

"Yeah," he said. "But Mom they talked for a long time about the beginning of the world, and nobody ever said anything about God. Some people in my class said they didn't believe in God, that He didn't have anything to do with how the world was made. I told them God made everything."

There it was. 

To be honest, I'm not that interested in the evolution/ creation debate. I'm not convinced a literal interpretation of an ancient story leads us to a deeper faith in Christ, but I do believe God is the Creator of all of life. I don't get involved in it, because this argument isn't an important part of my life. It is not crucial to the way I see God or others. I can believe in God as Creator without understanding how He did it, or how scientific data fits into the creation narrative. My faith is based on intuition, literature, experience, and the hope I have found. It is not based on a scientific reading of Scripture.

But as I thought about what my son had just said, I had a sudden insight: this matters to him. It matters a lot. This little boy is fact-driven and incredibly detail-oriented. He spends every minute of his free time making plans for elaborate projects with friends, reading about history and science, or building with Legos. I cannot begin to guess what he will do professionally, but I do know this: he will devote his life to details. He has no connection to fluffy ideas like intuition, or a faith that rests on stories. He wants information. Knowledge. Facts.

In that moment, I realized if I pitted science against faith, in time he would walk away from God. Not today, not at seven years old. But if he believed the two stood in opposition, eventually he would choose science. He would always follow information over intuition. There was not a doubt in my mind. I realized this moment - this one right here, driving home from school on a Friday - would be critical in his adult life.

So I gave him what I know in my gut is the truth. I gave him science as a path to find faith, instead of a path away from it.

"No," I answered him, "they didn't mention God. Your teachers probably won't talk much about God at all. But what if their presentation today ... what if that's how God created the world? The Bible tells us He created everything. It doesn't say how He did it, right? What if scientists have only discovered how God worked?"

I could see I had his attention, so I kept going. "You love science, and you are really good at it. Keep learning it, buddy. Keep reading books about animals and airplanes and space. Find out everything you possibly can. Because science will always point you to God. The more you know how incredibly detailed our world is and how perfectly it works together as a whole, the more you will see God. He is in those details. God created everything, and studying his creation will always draw us back to Him."

He seemed satisfied with my answer. We both rode home in thoughtful quiet.  

God entrusts us with babies who grow into kids who turn out to be people. People who are different from us, people with their own passions and ideas and interests. I don't want to offer my kids a faith that makes them afraid of the world. I want to share a faith that invites them into it. I want them to go, to learn, to grow into the people God created them to be. I want them to know they will always find God in the ideas that thrill their hearts and ignite their minds. And sometimes that path to discovering who we are begins with a conversation in the second grade on the way home from school. 

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