I have a 5-year-old son who asks a lot of questions. Many questions.
So many that I often feel like I am on some preschool version of Jeopardy. Some of them are easy to answer.
“What’s the name of a baby deer?”
“How does a car go fast?”
Some of them are a little more difficult.
“Why are there so many stars in the sky?”
“Why are some people mean?”
But nothing stumps me as much as my son’s questions about God.
“What does the Holy Spirit look like?”
“Where does Jesus go to the bathroom?”
“How did God make angels?”
I will fully admit to having my own questions about God, the Bible, and all the things that go with them. One would think that, growing up in church, I’d have more answers. But I just don’t remember a Sunday School class that dealt with biblical bathroom habits.
Each time I try to answer my son’s questions, I worry I am going to explain something wrong and screw him up somehow. What if I tell him something weird, and he wants nothing to do with God? What if he grows up to start some weird cult based on my theological failings? It’s a lot of pressure.
Our most recent theological quandary happened when we were visiting a church for a wedding. It was an old-fashioned building with gorgeous stained-glass windows. The one right next to our pew depicted Jesus praying in a garden. He was looking up to heaven, presumably, and there was a white light shining down on him.
“Is that Jesus?” my son asked. “What’s that white part?”
I explained that it was probably meant to be a light from heaven, that God was looking down on him, listening.
“But I thought Jesus was God.”
Uh-oh. But I only said, “Right.”
“So who is Jesus praying to?
“God,” I answered lamely.
“So He’s talking to himself?”
I stumbled over my answer, trying desperately to explain the idea of what’s known in theology circles as the Trinity in the simplest terms (and doing so very poorly). How do I explain this concept to a child when grown people don’t understand it?
But here’s what I’ve noticed about my son. As much as he questions and as much as I sometimes botch the answers, it never makes his faith waver. He just asks. His belief is not dependent on knowing the answers. It’s enough for him to accept that there are some things he doesn’t know. He enjoys the seeking of answers more than he needs to understand or like them.
Growing up, I heard a lot of references to “having faith like a child.” I never really understood it. One of my favorite stories about Jesus is when some children are brought to him so that he can pray over them. The disciples scoff at this since children in that day were considered unimportant, less than. But Jesus says, “Let the children come to me and do not stop them, because the Kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
I’m realizing that the faith of my son is filled with a happy curiosity. He approaches the world with wonder. He wants to explore and understand it all. But he finds the joy in the seeking, not just the final answer.
Driving home from our stained-glass experience, I realized that too often, I’ve gotten too caught up in wanting the right answer. It’s no longer enough for me to ask questions; I have to know everything. Sometimes my questions are as simple and light as my son’s: “Seriously, mosquitos. Why?” But sometimes my questions are much deeper and harder. I wonder why there is so much pain in the world. I question why some people have so much and others so little. I don’t understand why God doesn’t intervene when terrible things happen.
I don’t have answers for these things. The fact that I don’t have some kind of spiritual solution has led me to doubt my faith at times. If something doesn’t fit comfortably with my own knowledge, my instinct is to reject it. But seeing my son grapple with big questions, I’m finally starting to understand what child-like faith means.
There are always going to be things about God and the Bible that just plain bewilder me. But I’m going to continue to ask my questions for the sheer wonder of them, thinking that God might be chuckling at my questions as much as I smile at my son’s. And I’m trying to learn to be OK with not knowing all the answers.
But I am never going to understand why God made mosquitos.