How do you know?
A few nights ago, as I tucked my son in bed, his eyes began to fill with tears. When I asked him what was wrong, he looked at me as if he had done something wrong. Growing more worried I assured him he could talk to me and that everything would be ok. Nervously he looked up at me and asked, “How do you know God is real?”
“How do you know God is real?” A question from my 12-year-old son. I suppose this could be a normal question for a child to have. At this point in their lives they are questioning Santa, the Easter Bunny, and most certainly the Tooth Fairy. So it is no surprise to me that he may be putting God in the same category as these fictional characters. Yet, he asked me with tears in his eyes, a quivering mouth, and a heart that was hurting. He said to me, “I want to believe, but I don’t know how, and that scares me.”
I was baptized and grew up in the Methodist Church. I attended Sunday school every Sunday and choir practice every Wednesday night. I played bells, was an acolyte, and was confirmed when I was in 6th grade. I was very active in my church because well, it’s what I had to do. What I was told to do. I cannot say I ever had a relationship with God, not even enough to question if He was real or not. Believing was just something I did. I think a lot of people do this. They go to church because they think it’s what they are supposed to do. They say they believe in God, yet they have never really opened themselves up to Him.
And here is my son, still such a young age, caring so deeply and passionately about a God he does not yet know.
Now typically when our children put us on the spot with such deep questions, we, as parents, tend to stumble over our words. We search for phrases that make sense to them and to us. And if Ian would have come to me a year ago and asked me this question, I’m not sure how I would have answered him. Yes, I prayed when I was younger, and I have always prayed with my children at bedtime. Yet it wasn’t until recently I learned how to pray with purpose and to be able to speak the words I feel and hear the words I pray.
We have been saying the same prayer as a family, every night before bed since Ian was born….
Thank You for mommies and daddies,
brothers and sisters,
grandmas and grandpas,
aunts and uncles,
cousins and friends.
Please watch over us all, protecting us, keeping us safe and healthy.
Thank You God
for blessing our family with good health, love, and happiness.
Please continue to watch over and love our baby,
and please continue to keep us safe and healthy.
We love You God.
A few months ago I asked the kids if we could try something different. I would say the prayer each night in which we would ask God for guidance and help with issues we may be facing at school or at home. My hope was to teach the kids a sense of confidence and trust. Teaching them to pray was a way to help them talk openly with us, or God, about anything they want. Their voice became their pencil and God became their journal. God is someone they can trust and believe will always be there to listen.
What I didn’t realize that not only was I teaching my children how to pray, I was teaching myself, as well. Words did not flow very freely at first. Yet when I took time to slow down and speak from my heart, from the very pit of my stomach, I opened myself up to God. And He answered.
“How do you know God is real?” Ian asked.
“Because I feel Him,” I answered.
“I have prayed to God and I have opened myself up to Him. I have put my trust and faith in Him in hopes He can show me the way. He has offered me strength, comfort, peace, and confidence. I have prayed to Him and He has answered. I know He loves me without judgment. I do not have to be perfect in order to receive His unconditional love. And when you believe in a love that is so mighty and forgiving, it allows you to give love and receive love just as freely as God loves you.”
For now, my son, keep doing what you are doing. It’s okay to question your beliefs. They cannot be forced upon you. We all find our way one way or another. Your thoughts and feelings are mature, proving you are wise beyond your years. Your heart is tender and real. Do not be afraid. Tonight we will pray for truth. We will pray with an open heart and an open mind. And with this precious gift of prayer, I can only hope that one day, all of your questions will be answered.
As it is from you, I learned, “God is real.”