I had an awesome conversation with Abigail while driving to a birthday party this weekend. I think I would like to start blogging some of my conversations with her in order to practice communicating around questions like: How do we teach & talk to our young children about God? How do we communicate about complex concepts with children in a way that is biblically honest, but still accessible?
In this conversation, a few of my strategies are evident:
#1 - I take her questions seriously. If she asks a question, I want to give it a real, robust answer. Usually if she asks something, she’s ready to hear the answer. I try not to make it black-and-white if it’s not. I want to give the nuance, the subtleties.
#2 - I want to teach not just right conclusions or right thinking, but godly processes. When she asks “Does Mr. Obama believe in God?” She does not need me to recruit her for a political agenda. She needs me to help her walk through the murky waters of “What does it mean to believe in God? How do I know if someone else believes in God?” If I make a judgment of any kind on another person, I am not only telling her what I think, I'm teaching her how to judge. I want her to understand the process, not just the conclusions.
#3 - If a scripture comes to mind, it’s usually the Holy Spirit – so I go with it and see where He takes us.
While I drove her to a birthday party, Abigail asked me “Does Mr. Obama believe in God?”
We talked about believing in the idea of “a god” vs. trusting in Jesus as the fullness of God revealed in flesh and our only way of salvation, as well as having a biblical understanding of God’s character and His kingdom. I told her that although Mr. Obama says he believes in God, some of the things he says and does don’t agree with the bible. I told her that specifically I have heard people say that he doesn’t believe that Jesus is the only way for people to know God. If he thinks people can know God, live righteously, and or go to heaven without trusting in Jesus, then He doesn’t trust in the God of the bible that we know.
So then she asked “Mommy, sometime can we go to the White House and talk to Mr. Obama?”
I told her maybe we could go there sometime, but that doesn’t mean we’d be able to talk to him. I explained that since there are so many people in our country, not everyone gets to meet the President.
Abigail: “Can we call him on the phone?”
Me: “Hmmm…maybe. I’m not sure how that works. Maybe we can look up the phone number some time. What would you want to tell him?”
Abigail: “I would want to tell him about righteousness and Jesus and truth. If he doesn’t know Jesus I want to tell him about Him.”
Me: “That’s awesome, Abigail. What would you say to tell him about those things?”
Abigail: “I don’t know. I don’t know what I would say.”
As she said that, a scripture popped into mind. (You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you*).
I told her that it’s ok that she’s not sure exactly what she would say. I told her that we want to know the scriptures and know the voice of the Spirit, so that no matter where we are or who we are with, we will be able to hear what the Holy Spirit is saying and speak those words boldly.
Conversation to be continued…
*What I was actually thinking of was Matthew 10:18-20, but I didn’t know the specific verse. As I was talking to her I got my passages mixed up and used the language of Acts 2:4 “as the spirit gave them utterance”…which is actually directly relevant later in our conversation.
I also got the context wrong. I was thinking Acts 4: 8 “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them…”). But the Matthew 10 exhortation was actually Jesus speaking to the disciples.
And I got the main characters wrong. I said I thought it was Paul before some Roman leaders (Acts 24-26).
Although I didn’t have all my biblical references precise in my mind, I had the biblical principle right, and I think that’s most important. Now that I have looked up the references, I can go back and talk through it with her again – showing her where Mommy was off, and talking about how Jesus taught his disciples ahead of time to prepare them for the trouble that was coming. Also, showing the multiple occasions where this principle was walked out by the disciples.
I added the * explanation to demonstrate how rigorous theological discussions with our kids do not have to be limited to a context where we have all the knowledge and resources at our fingertips. Bringing the scripture into this discussion was important and valuable, even though I got some of the references jumbled.
When I return...a conversation about tongues & interpretation with a not-yet-5-year-old