I heard recently about a mom who liked to ask her kids something when she was alone with them. It was to reach out as they developed their near-adult opinions and essentially asked, “What do you no longer believe, that you think I still believe?” and, “What have you started to believe that you think I do not believe?“
I wish I had thought to ask my kids questions like those when they were still in high school. But honestly, I don’t think I would have been completely sure how to answer for myself. I thought I was certain about everything I believed in my thirties. What I believe now is stronger because of the decade of questioning that followed. I am still changing.
I don’t think most people are raised to question, it’s inconvenient for parents. It seems more common to either be raised to be obedient or to challenge other authority besides parents. But to question life in wonder and openness? How would you foster that? Or even should you? For those of us who don’t sincerely and curiously question, we tend to fixate that there is true, and there is false.
So if you find out that it isn’t so black and white, it can be painful or disillusioning. It was more the latter for me. The first thing my heroine in Heart of Petra said to me was, “Everything my parents ever told me was a lie.” (Yes, most writers live in or visit the imagination and hear voices.) Interestingly, I heard that when I was waiting in the church parking lot to pick my kids up from youth group. I understood in that moment that they wouldn’t believe all that I had told them. But I didn’t fear that fact. I knew there were some gray areas. And they will find their way through it, just like me.
I’m not saying that I’m comfortable living in the gray, thinking there isn’t absolute truth. I’m just comfortable knowing that I don’t have all the specific truths myself. A little relieved actually, because if you have the truths, it seems like you’d have the answers. Which I know I don’t. It could be my personality that makes me content knowing that someday far away I will know everything, but I think it is more that I trust God to handle the absolute truth.
As one of my sons teases, “You should NEVER speak in absolute truths.”
I don’t wait in laziness or apathy. I search and ask, knowing some answers might be a long time in coming. My daughter once told me she enjoyed seeing me grow because it meant life wasn’t stagnant after you got older. I understood what she meant when I watched my parents grow through the last few years. We shouldn’t expect our faith to increase but not change. (The latter faith is different from the former so it has changed.)
We love when the leaves “change,” but actually, they die. Even when it seems like you are changing from trust…to question…to wavering in mistrust…there is growth in the searching and death of what is wrong. I believe an ultimate authority of the universe would not be afraid of our searching.
A belief that changed in one of my children was that he could not reconcile the God of the old testament with the claim that God is loving. He told me it was cognitive dissonance for me to say, “I don’t understand why God killed a whole family because of one man’s disobedience, yet I still believe he is good.” I don’t think the term is exactly accurate for me, because I do not need to resolve the contradiction in my mind.
For now, it is enough for me to acknowledge that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God, yet simultaneously, when we are far away from him, he wants to reconcile us with love.