“I don’t know what I believe about God anymore. I’m not sure He even exists.”
This from my 13-year-old son when he was preparing for the sacrament of Confirmation. The greyness of insecurity, doubt, confusion muddles adolescence. And contemplating the wide, long, high, and deep concept of God while on the road to independence adds bigger questions to the mix.
“Confirmation is a personal choice, son. If you are unwilling or feel inadequately prepared, then don’t participate until you feel peace.”
When it came to a significant faith marker like Confirmation, my husband and I felt the step needed a spirit of genuine intent regardless of traditional timing. If our children’s faith was going to fully root, it had to be in their own soil, not ours. Just because we felt comfortable in our adult beliefs didn’t mean we were right about everything or had God all figured out. Because we for sure still don’t.
Months went by while my son questioned traditions, doctrines, philosophies, beliefs. I listened, prayed, and answered questions when he asked; sharing unsolicited advice only when prompted by the Holy Spirit. In the end, he decided to receive the sacrament because he felt ready.
Then, the same son, when a sophomore in high school, once again began questioning God and all things faith. I felt God prompting me to present a challenge to my son. I sent him off to school with this dare,
“Spend your day pretending God doesn’t exist and let me know what happens.”
He left. I pleaded.
Lord, my son is choosing to deny your existence today. Well, I guess you already know since this was your idea. Anyhow, please show up in a big way and thank you in advance.
I surrendered the outcome and went about my daily routine.
“Mom! You are not going to believe what happened today!”
God, always the showman. I knew the minute my son walked in the door with a smile plastered on his face He had delivered. And big.
“So, tell me about it.”
“Well, you know how you told me to pretend God didn’t exist today?
“I was in the library during study hall looking for a book to read for an assignment. One of the books caught my attention before I even saw the title. I pulled it off the shelf and opened to a random page. Mom, guess what I read?”
I smiled in gleeful anticipation of what I knew would be a mic drop moment from our savvy Creator.
“What did the book say?”
He laughed, “The first paragraph was all about the crucifixion.”
Of course it was. Why would God choose any other way to prove His existence than to shine a light on the heartbeat of our faith, the Cross? In a public school no less! Now I was laughing.
Thus began an enriching journey for my son towards building a foundation of faith. He is 22 years old now; his walk a continual ebb and flow of moving towards Christ. Growing, pulling away, dancing around, delving deep, questioning, and learning to embrace the essence of all things Divine.
All three of our children have endured periods of unbelief. Our approach to their curiosity and confusion is universal: meet them where they’re at, encourage them to find answers on their own through prayer, and learn right along with them.
We also pray with and for them, share our limited understanding of the mysteries, and give countless testimony of all the ways God works in our lives. Pointing them to Jesus our ultimate goal, letting Him guide their lives. We will never know all the answers and continue to grapple with our own doubts. If anything, our kids have made us better Christians, not the other way around through their beautiful example of Gospel living. All three have a deeply profound faith and propensity for love.
If your child is having similar doubts, try the God dare. I’m convinced God will shower down His magic and pull some cosmic strings. The gift of our children’s doubt is an opportunity for us to peer into our own heart; putting our convictions and beliefs to the litmus test of understanding. And if we’re lucky, our kid’s faith walk will continue to bolster ours as God teaches us new truths through fresh eyes.
Dare them forward, crazy Mommas!