Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Faith like a child

I am contemplating a new understanding of this phrase tonight after experiencing a Gauthier family discussion about the earthquake in Haiti. I once believed that to have "faith like a child" meant to trust blindly, to simply believe without reservation, doubt or questioning. And then I had children of my own. I discovered that children often have questions.

This morning as we were getting ready to head out the door, Bailey asked me what causes earthquakes. I attempted to give her a rather scientific explanation (since I've grown quite accustom to her need to know how things work in this world). But after my response I could tell that she wasn't quite satisfied with my answer. She looked me straight in the eyes and said, "So does that mean that God didn't cause the earthquake...or does it mean that God did cause it?" Needless to say, I felt ill equipped to tackle such a heavy theological question in the few minutes remaining before we would depart for the day...and I didn't think that responding with the answer "Perhaps it's both/and" (the seemingly standard Mars Hillian response these days) would suffice in this conversation so I told her that we could pick up with that question when we returned home in the evening.

Coincidentally, or maybe not so coincidentally, I had my Theology II class today where we pondered upon the agency of the Holy Spirit as the outworking of God in our world. I sat in class most of the morning thinking to myself that every theologian should be required to sit with an inquisitive 8 year old. I wrestled with my own sense of inadequacy in explaining God to my 8 year old because I'm often asking the same questions in my own theological and experiential journey of faith.

But, lo and behold, I took the leap and attempted to converse with my girls about this heartbreaking tragedy that struck some of the poorest of the poor in our shared world. Once again, Bailey asked her poignant question and as I began to confess that I did not believe that God caused such a disaster to occur, Faith interruppted and asserted, "But doesn't God know what is going to happen? Isn't God in control of everything? Why wouldn't God stop something like that?" I struggled to find words to share what my heart believes to be true of God's character - that the God I know is not one who would allow something such as this disaster for the purpose of punishment, but that I imagine that God's heart is aching for all of those impacted by this event. And yet, I confessed to my three curious young ladies that I too have many questions for God and that there are plenty of things that I don't fully understand.

So tonight as I'm reflecting upon our conversation together I'm wondering if having faith like a child is really about being unafraid to ask the hard questions - the potentially unanswerable questions. Maybe it's not about trusting blindly at all - maybe it's ultimately about trusting that God can handle our reservations, doubt and questioning - that to bring them to light is the path towards a more genuine and honest relationship. Maybe it's about having a relationship that is strong enough to hold the questions without needing immediate answers.


laurie said...

yes! thank you - to you and your 3 brilliant young theologians.

Emily said...

i really like these thoughts; thank you for writing :)

:::No Longer Mute said...

i like the landing you came to - based on your story, it does seem to be less about just swallowing things and more about not being afraid to ask what stuff is made of.