My three-year-old has been asking lots of questions about God. It all started with a discussion about angels; he wanted to know what they look like and where they live. I gave him the Sunday School description of Heaven — that fluffy, white place with winged cherubs and the whole lot. Telling him that made me feel a bit weird, I’ve got to admit. I felt that same surge of guilt as I do when I’m describing Santa Claus and trying to give detailed descriptions of elves and flying reindeer. I hate lying to him, yet I also want him to have the pleasure of imagining the surreal for a few years of his life; god knows, it doesn’t last long and I loved believing in it as a kid.
With God and Heaven, though, it’s a bit more complicated. He asked, “Where is God?”
“Well, God is everywhere,” I responded.
Being the quick thinker he is, he asked, “So is God on the other side of town?”
“Um, yes, I suppose so.”
“Can we take a bullet train to see God?”
“What about a subway train?”
“No, no trains.”
“Does she have wings like the angels?”
This question put a big smile on my face. There had been no prompting from me on the choice of God’s gender, but he’d chosen “she” because obviously God seems more like a mother than a father. I’ll encourage his vision of Mother God as long as I can, because I also prefer that over an antiquated male figure. Fortunately the subject changed at that point and we moved onto an easier topic.
I don’t want to be scared of talking about religion with my kids, but to be honest, I’m undergoing a personal religious crisis. I don’t know what I believe anymore. I don’t want to go to church because I just don’t buy it. Religion is seeming more cultish and artificially constructed than ever before. As a result, I’m paralyzed with indecision because renouncing faith would be like renouncing an entire identity and the basis of my upbringing and Mennonite culture; hence, my loss of words when talking to my son. I have some deep thinking to do before this topic comes up again, because I want to be honest with him while also teaching him and giving him the foundation that was tremendously important in my upbringing.
How is it that a three-year-old’s inquisitive questions can trigger more confusion in my mind than a minister’s carefully written sermon? What have you readers told your kids about God and religion?