You may have heard that there is a new Rob Bell book coming out that is already creating quite a stir within the Christian community even though the book isn’t even out yet. People are blogging and debating over Bell’s faith and whether or not he is worthy or not to call himself “Christian” any more.
My husband and I have been Rob Bell fans for a while. So, when I started seeing all the hub bub going on across the virtual world I shared the book’s promotional video with my husband so he could see what people were fussing about.
The kids were nearby as we watched it together and you could sense their radars on, aware that Mom and Dad found something interesting, curious to see if it was going to be to them, too.
Before my husband and I could express any reaction the kids jumped in.
Nate: Who’s Gandhi? Why was that man talking about Gandhi?
Isabella: Gandhi was really important. He was from India. He’s like Martin Luther King.
Nate: Then why don’t people like Gandhi?
Me: People aren’t saying they don’t like Gandhi. Some people are just wondering whether or not Gandhi is in heaven or not.
Isabella: Of course he is! Why wouldn’t he be in heaven. He believed in Jesus!
Me: True. But Gandhi didn’t claim to be a Christian or believe that Jesus was God. So people are discussing if that means he is in heaven or not.
Isabella: (thinking for a minute) Isn’t he in heaven, Mom?
My husband and I glanced at each other. I had a moment of panic. Is this too deep of a topic? Do I have the right answer? Maybe I should steer the discussion in a different direction to make sure I don’t say the wrong thing. What DO I really think about who is in heaven and who isn’t? Playing in my head is the answer I’m sure my conservative childhood upbringing would want me to say. But was that answer what I really believed?
So I asked Isabella the same question I was asking myself: We’ll Isabella, what do YOU think?
Isabella: (pausing for thought) I think he is.
I didn’t tell her she was wrong. I didn’t tell her that was a very immature answer. What I did tell her was that I actually wasn’t sure if he was or not, but that it’s something I’m thinking about. I told her that Jesus told us he was God, that he died for our sins, and that those who believe in Him go to heaven. But God is also bigger than me and so I don’t know what all that means for everyone. But that doesn’t change my belief in Jesus.
Our conversation quickly evolved into a discussion about what heaven was going to be like. Isabella thought it was going to be really warm and we’d live in the clouds. Nate let us know that you could shoot people in heaven because they wouldn’t die and that you could wrestle tigers (ah, six-year-old boys).
I love the spiritual discussions I have with my children. In their innocence, they ask tough questions; questions that most adults are afraid to ask. And they are OK with wondering and imagining and not knowing all the answers. My kids are constantly helping me grow my own faith and beliefs because of the discussions they aren’t afraid to have with me.
I don’t have all the answers to questions related to God. And I don’t want my kids to think that I do or that adults in general do. I want to teach them the facts to the best of my understanding. I want to teach them to think for themselves and not believe in something simply because they were told that’s what they should believe.
I don’t need to protect God. I don’t need to worry that by not feeding an answer to my kids for every question that somehow it will damage their own faith. I want to teach my kids to pursue God. I want them to wonder about him. I want them to know there are questions that may have more than one answer and that often pursuing answers only brings up more questions. But this isn’t something to be afraid of. This is the awesomeness of God! This is part of their child-like faith I don’t want them to lose.
Rob Bell’s latest book is not out yet so obviously I haven’t read it. I do have it pre ordered for my Kindle and am really looking forward to seeing what Bell really has to say. I’m curious because I have only a very little idea of what heaven and hell are all about and would love to hear someone who I’ve respected in the past weigh in on what questions he’s been pursuing.
And then, I hope to have a wonderful discussion evolve with those around me.
Oh how much better these discussions would be if we could take some of the child-like openness with us into them! I wonder if it would allow us to actually learn more?
What do you think? Have you experienced deep spiritual moments with your kids that you’ve actually learned from? How do you handle the tough questions that kids ask about God?