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Posts Tagged ‘faith’

On the way into the Y for swim lessons on Monday, my son and I stopped to let a Y staffer scan my membership card.

While we were standing there, I noticed the big basket of colorful slips of paper that is labeled “Spiritual Vitamins” and suggested that William take one for us to read together. I often take one myself, just to see what random Bible verse I might get and to see how it might apply to my current situation. Often I get a verse that I vaguely recognize, so I end up spending part of my time on the treadmill or elliptical trainer pondering when I might have read that part of the Bible and what it means. (Which is a nice little extra Bible study in an unexpected way, if you think about it. It’s Biblical lagniappe.)

But the lady suggested that we take a slip from a second basket of “Spiritual Vitamins” that are created just for children. “They’re a little easier to explain,” she said, proffering the basket.

The purple slip that William pulled out read, “If you believe you can or you can’t, you are probably right.” I read it aloud to him and said, “Yes, I think that’s true. What do you think, William?”

He scrunched up his face as we walked along the corridor toward the swimming pool and asked me to read it again, which I did. “What does that mean, exactly?” he finally asked.

“Well,” I started. “If you think you can do something, and you believe in yourself that you can do it, then you’ll get it done. But, if you think, ‘Oh, I can’t do that,’ then you probably can’t do it because you don’t think you can.”

William looked unconvinced. For a moment or two, I wished we had gotten a nice easy-to-understand Bible version from some uncontroversial part of the Bible (which, er, is a tall order, now that I think about it). “A little easier to understand, my rear end,” I thought. But this particular bon mot had some real merit, and so I pressed on.

“It means you need to have confidence in yourself,” I said. “The best way to accomplish something is to have faith in yourself and do your best to get something done, not to just give up and say you can’t do it.”

(That wasn’t too bad, was it?)

At that point, we had reached the door to the pool area. Willliam charged inside, and we dropped the conversation. But the more I ruminated over William’s “Spiritual Vitamin,” the more relevant it became to his life–and mine.

William is trying to learn how to swim, and it’s a two-steps-forward-one-step-back process. He’s finally gotten comfortable letting go of me in the water if he’s got a firm grip on a pool noodle or something. But he’s still not yet ready to try floating on his back with me standing guard, no matter how many times I tell him that I’m right there and he’s not going to drown. Maybe all he needs to do at this point is to tell himself that he can learn how to swim…and then set about doing it.

And I need to realize that perhaps this process is just his way of doing that. Just because it’s not a completely linear way of learning to swim doesn’t mean it’s not valid, even if it frustrates his mom.

That, I think, is a good lesson for me in another way. Our faith journeys don’t always have to be linear, always-going-forward. But if we tell ourselves that we are learning, that we are making progress, and then do it…then we are. If we believe that we can, we can.

With God’s help, of course.

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I have found that one of best places and times to have a really good conversation with my older son is in the car on the way to and from school.

That’s when we find ourselves talking about all sorts of things. William likes to pose questions that he’s been pondering, and we often have really wonderful discussions as a result. In the last few weeks, we’ve talked about a range of topics, including whether the Loch Ness Monster is real or not, how ousted Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak was sort of like the Pharaoh in the book of Exodus, and why Godric Gryffindor would have needed a sword if he was a wizard and all the wizards had wands.

A few days ago, he hit me with another good question.

“What’s underneath the Earth?” he wanted to know.

“Underneath the Earth?” I repeated. “Well, there’s space underneath, as far as I know.”

“But what’s underneath that?” he persisted.

Ack. A few months ago, William had asked me what was beyond outer space. (Readers of my family blog might remember that conversation.) I sort of stumbled around for awhile before finally resulted to that tried-and-true resource of all modern parents. Nope, not the Bible.  That’s right. As soon as I could get to a computer, I turned to Google. Unfortunately, I didn’t find much of anything useful. I think I told William something about how the universe is still expanding outward, but we don’t know really what’s out there for sure. I read to him a little bit about how there’s gas, plasma, dust and some other molecules in space, but that didn’t really address the heart of his question.

His question, of course, is really: “What’s out there?”

The funny thing is, I don’t think it really bothers him that no one knows for absolute certain what’s out there. He’s curious, yes, and he wants to learn more, but young children are accustomed to the fact that there is so much they just don’t know. And it doesn’t bother them. As far as he’s concerned, heaven is “up there” above us, although I don’t know how he logistically reconciles that with outer space. But he does somehow, and he’s comfortable with that. I remember when I used to think that heaven was just “up there,” too. I kind of wish I still did. It becomes more of a tricky existential concept as we become adults, though. 

And while we’re on the subject of tricky teleological questions…William also asked me around the same time if we would understand everything about God (that we don’t understand right now) when we get to heaven. I told him, honestly, that I don’t know.  Maybe we will, maybe we won’t. Maybe it will be enough just to be in the presence of God. Maybe our questions will be satisfied just by that. We won’t even know that ’til we get there…wherever “there” is.

As confounding as they can be, I like that he’s asking these questions. I like that he’s asking me, even though I have to tell him that not only do I know, but I have a whole series of my own questions that I’m asking. But I’m trying to raise my son to  know that it’s okay to ask those questions. 

In church, we talk a lot about the mystery of faith, and I think we have to grapple with that. And for me, at least, grappling involves asking a lot of questions and pondering the possible answers. It looks like William may be taking that route, too.

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What’s the trickiest question your child has ever asked you? How did you respond?

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