One Stone at a Time

One Stone at a Time
One Stone at a Time

Conveying Christ to Kids

Hi, I’m Lisa. I love talking to people, reading, traveling, cooking, baking, gardening, and flower arranging. And I love talking to people about Jesus and how he’s working in my life. 

I often say God pushed me kicking and screaming into writing this blog. But it was actually a lot gentler than that
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Faith

Loving Difficult People by Faith

Loving difficult people by faith

Difficult people.

During my time of seventh-grade bullying, one girl was the primary cause. Supposedly a close friend, she instigated the incidents. Over the years I needed to learn the hard way that I couldn’t trust her. Originally I confided in her, trusting her friendship. Then she betrayed me. Repeatedly. Because she had been my first friend in my new school, it was hard to wrap my mind around the fact that she was acting as my enemy. Finally my mom got me to see, after far too many times of being betrayed, that I couldn’t trust my friend. Then my parents taught me the even harder lesson of loving difficult people by faith.

Loving difficult people by faith.

Loving by faith initially seems to contradict our definition of love. When we think of all the ways we use the word “love,” we usually associate it with pleasure. We love pizza. I love chocolate cheesecake, especially when I make it with Kahlua. Mmmmm.  We love great books and great movies. And, of course, we love people. We love all the special people in our lives.

But what about the difficult people in our lives? Don’t we all have difficult people we love? And, if we’re honest, aren’t we difficult to love at times too? My parents taught me the importance of praying for difficult people. But here’s the most challenging part. We’re not allowed to simply pray that they stop being annoying or sinning against us. We need to pray for them in a way that cares about their needs being met. That meant I needed to pray that my frenemy would be happy, that life would go well for her, and that she would feel loved. That meant I could never complain about her to our friends.

God uses prayer to create love.

In his Love is a Feeling to be Learned, Walter Trobischer explains that the feeling of love follows the actions of love. Not the other way around. Infatuation can come first. Or an intense, sudden best friendship. But the feeling of real love follows our learning to love unconditionally, as God loves us. It also comes after we learn to love by faith. My parents gave me a tiny book by Bill Bright that changed my life and relationships: How to Love by Faith. This tiny book taught me how to trust the Holy Spirit to give me his love, as I prayed for the person who bothered me so much. What a revolutionary, biblical concept!

Prayer for others changes us.

To me what was most amazing about this process was that God used it to heal me. He took away my anger, my desire for vengeance, and even much of my pain. As I really prayed for this girl, I began to notice the ways she was suffering and saw that she was lashing out because of her own pain. My changed heart allowed her heart to change–slowly. I didn’t notice the change in her as quickly as I noticed it in myself. But God changed both of us, through my prayers.

Over the years, God has called me back to that lesson many times. Because I forget. When people act nasty toward me, my automatic reaction can be to feel hurt and angry. But each time God brings me back to his lesson of loving difficult people by faith, he brings healing. To me and to the other person.

 

 

God Sightings: Helping Kids See Him

God sightings: Helping kids see

God sightings: helping kids see him

Years ago, one of our church series focused on “God sightings”–specific places we saw God working. For quite a while we were diligent in asking each other for God sightings during prayer time. It was fun to see our girls recognize God’s work in answers to their prayers. It was even more fun to see them recognize God’s presence in areas we hadn’t thought to pray about. Yet God was blessing us specifically in those areas anyway. Ahead of our prayers. He knew our hearts. We used to say, “Wow. I hadn’t even thought to pray about that yet.” But after a while, we forgot to look for these special moments, those God sightings.

We need God’s reminders.

The people of Israel were like us. For a while they noticed God’s blessings and talked about them. Then they forgot. God knew that would continue to be true, so he used a pile of rocks to help them remember:

21 [Joshua] said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 22 tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ 23 For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The Lord your God did to the Jordan what he had done to the Red Sea[a] when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. 24 He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.” (Joshua 4: 21-24)

We don’t live in a rocky country with a huge pile of rocks to stand as a national memorial. In fact, conservationists tell us that we might cause problems in certain habitats when we do leave piles of rocks behind to show that we have been there. So, what reminders can we set up for ourselves? More importantly, how can we point our children to the ways God is working in our lives and in theirs?

Not all reminders need to be physical.

Our traditions can be reminders. Even our daily habits can be reminders of who Jesus is and what he did for us and continues doing for us. Praying before meals, reading the Bible together as a family, praying for each other during the day–all these behaviors God uses to remind us and our kids who he is today. Can we ignore these reminders? Obviously. Did the Israelites sometimes walk by those rocks without thinking? Absolutely. But God does call us to create our own reminders and our own ways to tell our children about who Jesus is and that he is an active part of our lives today.

We need to be living reminders of the reality of Jesus Christ.

God told the Israelites they needed to love him with all their hearts and talk about him continually with their children (Deuteronomy 6:5-9 NIV). In the same way, he tells us that we need to season our conversations with the reality of Jesus Christ (Colossians 4:6 NIV). To our children, we are the most powerful reminders of Jesus they have. We need to make intentional choices in being those reminders. My husband and I chose family prayer time before the first person went to bed. For us, that has been a lasting legacy for our family–and a powerful stimulus to our faith.

I challenge you to choose either family prayer time, talking to your children daily about God sightings, or some other special tradition to become your spiritual legacy in conveying the living reality of Jesus Christ.

Make Kids Feel Needed in Church

Make kids feel needed in church

Make kids feel needed

Even these days, most kids probably grow up helping their parents or their siblings in certain ways. But probably not to the same extent that was true of their parents or grandparents. We no longer have a dozen kids per family, needing the older ones to care for the younger ones while we tend to the babies, as my dad’s parents did. The same tends to be true at church. Grown-ups do everything. So how do we develop our kids’ sense of who they are and their importance in the body of Christ? How do we make kids feel needed in the church?

Needs in tiny churches

The tiny church I grew up in–a church plant–was so little that they needed to rely on kids for important roles. I was eleven when I heard my parents discussing the need for a teacher for our first-, second-, and third-grade Sunday school class. I’m sure my dad was trying to persuade my already heavily committed mom to add that to her list. But since I loved that age group and planned to train to be a teacher, that position sounded great to me. So, I volunteered.

My parents were startled. They first responded with the obvious, “Oh, you’re not old enough. And you have to have made profession of faith publicly in the church to be a Sunday school teacher.”

Not allowing kids to feel pushed aside

“What does that involve? Can’t I do that?”

“It would mean going to the church council and telling them that you are ready to go public for Jesus and make your membership official. You’d have to tell them that you understand the teachings of the church and believe they’re biblical. Then you’d be an adult member.”

“Sure. I can do that. How? When?”

Although I thought my parents were startled, their reaction was nothing compared to that of the church elders and deacons. Stunned is more like it. They asked me all the questions that were typical in that day. The creeds, the catechism, and what Jesus meant to me personally. They also asked me what made me decide to make profession of faith right at that time. Then they sort of looked at each other as though they didn’t know what to do next.

“How old did you say you were?” one asked.

On hearing I was only eleven, they asked how many months till my birthday. They agreed that I could make my public profession as soon as I turned twelve. Though I thought the waiting was silly, I was happy to be accepted. I felt validated in my faith and very adult because they were going to let me teach Sunday school.

The blessings of feeling needed

Teaching that class was much harder than I had expected. First-graders can hardly read, and third-graders are already good readers. Teaching to that range of kids stretched my creativity. Ten to thirteen kids that age at once can be a handful. But I was so energetic and eager to prove myself up for the job that I figured it out.

I remember having so much fun doing things like big cut-outs for the walls to encourage attendance. One season each child put up a squirrel and got to add a nut for each Sunday of attendance. I was so eager to share Jesus with these little kids that each Saturday I even pedaled my bike to the house of any child who had missed class the week before to tell them we had missed them.

God’s mission moving forward

Not surprisingly, the class prospered. And I prospered. The class grew in size and in unity, and I grew in motivation to learn the Bible better and to learn better ways of teaching. My most important takeaway was my intense sense of belonging that I gained from being needed by the church. 1 Corinthians 12 gives us a detailed description of the body of Christ and each of us needing to use our gifts. As adults, we know how important using our gifts is. But what about our kids?

Kids who are needed in the church feel motivated to stay in the church.

When I hear people lament about the difficulty of so many young people leaving the church, I often think back to the time the church allowed me to become its youngest Sunday school teacher. The church’s accepting and enfolding me early actually gave me protection against negative peer pressure during my teen years. I had found my place. I was a Christ follower–a part of the body of Christ. No one could convince me otherwise.

When my kids were that age, we encouraged them to help with nursery, the church library, Vacation Bible School, playing instruments for church. Those were encouraging experiences for them as they felt needed and got to know godly adults they were working with. Just think how much better it would be if we as church bodies could make it a priority to incorporate young people into as many different ministries as possible.

How to make kids feel needed? Find ways to use their gifts.

One-Time Comments Have Lasting Impact

one-time comments have lasting impact

One-Time Comments Have Lasting Impact.

Telling kids that only sticks and stones can hurt them–not words–may make speakers feel better. But both kids and adults know it’s a lie. Fortunately, positive one-time comments have lasting impact too. In this world of physical bullying and cyber bullying, it’s more important than ever for adults to speak words of hope to the kids in our lives.

Girl dancing in church expresses her praise.
Girl dancing in church expresses her praise.

Parents have lots of opportunities, but any adult can bless a child with words of lasting impact.

Even our brief conversations with children at church during greeting times can affect them powerfully. Negatively or positively. I mentioned before my twelve-year-old daughter’s horrid reaction when an older woman told her to enjoy her childhood, since these were the best years of her life. The well-meaning elderly woman had no idea of the negative impact her words conveyed and that my daughter would never forget that one comment.

At the same time, a sincere question to a child about to start a new school can be powerful. It affirms the child’s importance and the significance of that time in life, because the grown up acknowledges it. Hearing that an adult they don’t know well is going to pray for them in this time validates their membership in the body of Christ. It points to the fact that they are valuable human beings and not simply partially formed adults. We can help our church children to feel embraced by the Body of Christ, so that they can open themselves up fully to the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

One woman I know overheard a nine-year-old say something to her mom about the sermon reminding her of her recent nightmares.

She told the girl she had overheard and remembered her own children experiencing nightmares. Her children had been blessed by having her come in and pray with them. She had simply prayed, “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I command you, Satan, to leave this child alone! Lord Jesus protect this child from further attack and give your peace.” Instantly, the child had experienced the peace of Christ and freedom from nightmares.

This woman asked the girl if she could pray with her right there. She eagerly accepted. After praying for her, she reminded the girl of 1 John 4:4 “because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.” She also reminded her of the power of the name of Christ.

The next week the girl initiated conversation. She told how she had needed to pray that on her own one night. But since then, she had been nightmare free. The woman now tells of how this girl she didn’t really know, and still doesn’t really know, has a special bond with her. Because one-time comments have lasting impact, they share a special greeting each time they see each other at church. She knows the girl feels the certainty of being a part of the Body of Christ with her.

Sunday School teachers have special opportunities.

In talking to friends lately about our faith journeys, I’ve realized how many of us remember something an adult said to us decades ago. Just once. I remember being struck by my Sunday School teacher telling her fifth graders that God had no grandchildren. To adults, that may seem obvious. But to me as a young child, it was striking. She challenged us that we were not automatically part of God’s family just because our parents were. We needed to make our own choices.

Though I’m sure my parents tried to convey this same idea many times, no memory of it stands out. But Mrs. Bruizeman’s fervent conversation with us struck a chord. I’ll never forget the earnestness in her voice. I knew it was important to her personally that we each take God seriously and accept Jesus as personal Savior.  It changed me.

A friend has a similar experience. She remembers her Sunday School teacher telling a class of eleven-year-olds that each person had to make a personal decision to accept Christ, not just assume it because of parents. And she told them they were old enough to do that for themselves. She also challenged them that they were old enough to read their Bibles daily on their own. My friend felt surprise. She also felt the challenge and a sense of responsibility she never forgot.

I pray each of us seeks these opportunities and remembers that one-time comments have lasting impact.

 

Out-of-Season Blooming Flowers and People

Out-of-season blooming columbine

Out-of-season blooming of flowers and people.

Bringing my out-of-season blooming columbine into the house in October blessed me. I love this columbine’s pluckiness, determination, and ability to continue to bring joy when its time should be long past. It also reminds me of my parents. In their times of increasingly difficult dementia, they somehow managed to bless those who cared for them. They loved the Lord deeply, and it showed in their love for each other and in their love of those around them. Even in the nursing home they had fought going into.

Giving patience a chance to bloom.

In most of his life my dad was not a very patient person. He wanted broken systems to be fixed and to be fixed now–so not a process person. He was very goal-oriented and expected those around him to be goal-oriented as well. Like me, he needed to learn patience through difficult things. Amazingly, however, we saw his patience continue to grow in the final years of his life.

He needed daily care and grieved the fact that he couldn’t go out and minister to people as he had done most of his life. Yet his prayer each time I prayed with him included, “Lord, we wait on you. We wait on you to show us what work you have for us today.” He did not understand that his work at the time was simply showing God’s love to those around him and expressing gratitude. But he did it through God’s spirit in him, and people noticed.

Giving trust and peace a chance to bloom.

My mother’s most evident spiritual struggle was with anxiety and worry. The family joke was that no road trip was truly underway until Mom had figured out what she had forgotten. Seriously. She had some sort of almost superstitious sense that once she figured out something minor she had forgotten, it would mean she hadn’t forgotten anything important. We all needed to be quiet till she figured it out.

Her worry found almost endless topics. What a joy to see that as her mind deteriorated, her spirit found more and more peace in her Savior. In her final years she was able to relax and laugh more. She even accepted my husband’s joke about all the “servants” she had helping her with her daily tasks. My daughters saw in her a peaceful, joyful Nana they had never been able to fully see before.

Out-of-season blooming of my parents
Out-of-season blooming of my parents where they were planted

Sanctification continuing even in dementia.

As I shared with my students the prayers my parents were praying for them at the time, they expressed amazement. We rejoiced together in seeing that God’s work in us does not stop when our minds stop functioning well. I used to tell my parents that they sweetened with age like fine wine. (I know that true wine connoisseurs would disagree with me about sweet wine.) But I felt joy and encouragement as I saw my parents’ relationship with the Lord and the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives grow stronger–even during their final downward spirals. I pray that someday God will also allow me times of out-of-season blooming.

Desperation Parenting is the Worst

Desperation parenting of a searching child.

My mom had many moments of desperation parenting! As I have.

In my mom’s desperation parenting of me, she completely changed her focus in ways that I did not understand at the time. I only knew that Mom started telling me daily what she was talking to Jesus about and how he was answering those prayers.

My mom’s telling me of her first-person encounters with Jesus nourished my faith.

And it grew!

No one-time moment of conversion followed, but I became a believer by seeing her relationship with Jesus and following in her footsteps.

Many years later, a similarly panicky scenario unfolded for me. Though my daughter had publicly professed her faith in Jesus at a young age, preadolescence brought a crisis of faith.

In childhood she had experienced God’s nearness in profoundly personal ways, which she was no longer experiencing. Because of this change in her experience, she began to seriously doubt the existence of God.

My own panicky-mom time followed. For about six months I agonized and prayed. My husband and I prayed together for her faith continually. I also prayed with her regularly before bed, after asking her how she was doing. These conversations involved her telling me her frustrations with not hearing God’s voice and not being sure he was real. After that, I told her stories of my own and others’ experiences of the seesaws of spiritual journeys. I even told her the story of St. John of the Cross and his “dark night of the soul” experience.

In my desperation parenting nothing seemed to help.

Feeling like a total failure as a mother, I just kept trying. Night after night I prayed with her. She did not pray, but she did not object to my praying with her. But she was used to it, having grown up with nightly family prayer time.

Somewhere during our struggle, I began crying out to God, “Please, Lord! Show her who you are. Don’t leave her in the dark! Show her how real you are. Allow her to see you for you are, as she used to do! This is your beloved child. Do not allow her to wander away from you in her pain. PLEASE show yourself to her!”

At some point, she started telling me she was “doing better,” so we stopped having these conversations. But I kept praying for her.

A year or so later she said to me, “Mom, do you know how I finally knew God was real?”

I was stymied. But I had always wondered.

She explained, “Because when I don’t know what to do, I go to you. And when you don’t know what to do, you go to God.”

A wave of relief and amazement washed over me. God had used me—his broken vessel—to show his power through.

Is God using your experiences of doubting as a child? Or of having a child who doubts? Is there a way you can make that more likely?

Haystack Rock Memories

haystack rock memories will always be with me

My Haystack Rock memories are among my best.

As a child, I loved it when it was a year my parents chose to take us to Cannon Beach for vacation. It was a Christian family camp, so they had wonderful lectures and group activities for all ages. But best of all in my experience were our Haystack Rock memories.

My just-younger sister and I were old enough to opt out of children’s activities, so we got to be free-range kids at the beach.

What could be better? We wandered the colorful streets, looked in store windows, bought ice cream sandwiches from a vending machine. A couple of times we walked all the way to the beach and saw Haystack Rock. I’m not sure the two of us actually ever walked without our parents the whole two and a half miles to the big rock and back. But we loved going to the beach at low tide and examining the new world available for us to see there.

Years later, my husband and I got to return with our daughters to make new Haystack Rock memories.

My husband and daughters loved it as much as I did. This time the kids didn’t get opportunities to range free of us for a half day at a time, as I had. But they also loved seeing a different, more creative side of God in the marine life exposed at low tide.

Haystack Rock Memories
Memories of low-tide near Haystack Rock

Together we reveled in examining the tiny creatures clinging to the wet rocks. We investigated tiny pools of fish temporarily cut off from the larger ocean. We marveled at all the starfish on the wet sand that survived till the tide came back in. And each night we watched the times of the tides according to the published time table, amazed that every day was different but always on a predictable schedule. God’s timing is beyond our imaginings.

During family prayer time that week, we thanked God often for the beauty of his creation.

Looking at the complexity of marine life we were able to see  gave us a renewed appreciation for how big our God is. And how amazing it is that such a big God still cares about our daily needs.

Even more amazing is that the Lord Jesus Christ we regularly pray to created the world. We so often envision the Father as the creator and somehow think of Jesus coming on the scene as a baby. Obviously, that is when Jesus appeared as a human being.

But Jesus, the Son of God, was present at creation and participated in it. I love imagining the possibilities of the Triune God discussing together what to create next. God created us in his image–in community. Because he, our creator, is himself a community.

How cool is that!

No wonder he loves to have us talk to him and want to spend time with him. That’s at the heart of what community means: enjoying being together. Enjoying being together and enjoying the marvels of creation are what make my Haystack Rock memories the best!

Perils of Young Adulting are Confusing

Perils of young adulting--antti-pajari-440107-unsplash

The perils of young adulting seem to be increasing.

The perils of young adulting have always existed. But today  they seem more confusing than ever. As I’ve worked with countless college students and three daughters navigating that territory, I appreciate the growing complexity they face.

When I sought a clear path as a young adult, I often found “Road Closed” and “Detour” signs blocking my way.  And I longed for flashes of lightning or a banner down from heaven.

But today the perils of young adulting almost seem like distorted bright reflections on a wet pavement.

My college students often told me they had expected college to be a wonderful time. And it often was. But it was also often painful. Life confused them.

I regularly shared my mother’s wisdom. She had comforted my sisters and me more times than I can count this way: “Honey, don’t ever let anyone tell you these are the best years of your life. It gets better.”

One of my students responded by telling me her story. She had so frequently been told in high school that those would be her best years, that after graduation she attempted suicide.

Similarly, at twelve, one of my daughters heard from an elderly woman in church, “Enjoy these years, honey. They’re the best years of your life.” My daughter walked to the car with us afterward and asked, “Shall I just kill myself now? It’s all downhill from here?”

Fortunately, she was not feeling suicidal. But she was twelve! And for someone to tell her that was the best time of her life was unknowingly cruel. She wanted reassurance that life would get better. We probably all remember the painful swings of emotions in adolescence. Clueless adults can make those even worse.

Unfortunately, as adults we can easily idealize childhood or young adulthood and give pain to others as we reminisce.

Even college students are guilty of the same thing as they idealize their childhoods.

I remember being shocked by how hard it was for my students to understand the topic of a poem I taught on the fears and traumas of childhood. They read it through the eyes of nostalgia. A poem talking about night lights and thumb sucking had to be happy. Most simply could not see the fears expressed in the poem.

What they needed to see is what all of us need to see: each age has its joys and its pains. And at any stage, focusing on our fears can derail us.

We can pray through  Philippians 4:6-7, by ourselves and with our children:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (NIV)

We know that God promises us peace, but that does not make the baby’s hunger disappear instantly. It doesn’t prevent a child from being afraid in the night. And it doesn’t prevent young people from having to figure out what God wants them to do with their lives. And it certainly doesn’t prevent parents from experiencing the agony of letting go and letting God take charge–of our lives, of our children’s lives, of our friends’ lives.

As I often said to my girls while praying through Philippians 4 with them, “It would be so nice if we could just give our concerns to God and be done with them. Unfortunately, he still wants us to do the required work. And we have to trust him to let us know what that is.”

And trusting is hard. At any age. Whether in the perils of young adulting or much older.

Faces Turned Toward God Like Sunflowers

Faces turned toward God: Sunflowersphoto by marco-secchi-585553-unsplash-copy.jp

Faces turned toward God.

Watching a field of sunflowers with their faces turned toward the sun reminds me of how we–as children of God–were created to live with our faces turned toward God.

As a small child, our middle daughter made us think of a sunflower. She was so full of sunshine and so eager to express God’s love to others. When her grandma said to me, “There’s no beating her face for sunshine,” I knew I had found her symbol.

Her older sister’s symbol was a young apple tree. Hers was a sunflower. She loved the symbol and lived into it, as I had hoped after learning the idea from Trent and Smalley’s The Blessing.

We told her that we thought of her as a living sunflower. She reflected God’s love to others just as sunflowers reflect the sunshine in their bright color.

As a child, she collected sunflower memorabilia. As a teenager, she painted her bedroom wall with beautiful, very individual sunflowers. As a bride, she carried sunflowers.

When she was a little girl, she did not know much of the Old Testament yet.

She did not know that Isaiah 60:19 says,

“The sun will no more be your light by day,
    nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you,
for the Lord will be your everlasting light,
    and your God will be your glory. ” NIV

But she knew that God loved her and wanted her to love others. She also knew her shining face made us think of reflecting God’s love to others, like sunflowers reflect the sun. I’m sure that encouraged her bright spirit.

But she had times of difficulty growing up, as all our children did. We thanked God then, as we do now, that she knew God’s love was not just for sunny times.

Yet she knew God loved her even when she felt miserable. She used to ask me why God didn’t just make her feel better when she was sick and prayed to him. Since she knew he could, why didn’t he?

The only thing I could tell her is that I didn’t know. But I also told her that suffering came into the world as a result of sin. I also knew that sickness and pain make us long for heaven and God’s presence in a way unblemished happiness would probably not.

God kept his promise from Numbers 6:25 to make his face shine upon her and be gracious to her. And later he graced her with the ability to share that loving favor from God with others who had struggled as she had.

Living with faces turned toward God.

As a high schooler, she once asked me to write down all the Bible verses I had shared with her over the years. I was surprised and knew I had no way of knowing what they all were. Then she told me she wanted to make little cards of them to encourage a friend as they had encouraged her.

My mother’s heart was full. God’s word had nestled in her heart and found a place from which to go forth in love.

[photo by marco-secchi-585553-unsplash]

 

Children Questioning Why: Fruitful Inquiry

joshua-alfaro-353879-unsplash

Children Questioning Why

Thinking back to my years of children questioning why, I remember wondering if their questions would ever end. But they always did. Because their “But why?” always led me to the only final answer: “Because that’s the way God made it.”

With my first child, I remember thinking she would not be satisfied by that answer. And she did always initially ask why God had made that choice.

But when I told her that I didn’t know and we could ask him when we got to heaven, that seemed to satisfy her. Until she thought of her next question.

The pattern repeated itself with my other two children. Always curious. Always wanting to know why. And always wanting to know why about the answer.

Each child repeated the pattern of questioning a surprising number of times .

“Why can’t we see the end of the lake? If there’s land on the other side, why can’t we see it?”

“Why does it get dark at night?”

“But why do I have to sleep at night?”

“How do you know candy is bad for me?”

“But why do dogs bark? And why are they so loud?”

“Why do the leaves turn different colors?”

I started thinking my children questioning why were a sign of the God-shaped vacuums within them.

When Pascal said that each person is created with a God-shaped vacuum within, I don’t think he meant only adults. Our children’s questions also demonstrate their need to know who God is and what he is like.

Their native curiosity demonstrates their growing intelligence, but their willingness to accept God as the ultimate answer is powerful.

They know he is the prime mover. They couldn’t tell us that. But they know its truth instinctively. They know the truth is bigger than us as human beings.

Our need to tell them this truth is just as important.

We need to explain that we don’t know why some fish are created to live in salt water, some in fresh water, and some in both. Because our children need to know we don’t know everything. We may want them to think we know everything. But they need to know we don’t.

And our need to acknowledge that God knows so much that we can’t possibly know fits with our own God-shaped vacuums. We may not always feel the need to tell our children that we are limited.

But it’s an important part of our modeling dependence on him.

And, when we think about it, don’t we as adults constantly have questions we can’t find answers to?

I used to think I had so many questions I planned to ask God as soon as I got to heaven. Then I started thinking I wouldn’t need to ask him when I got there. I would already know. But now the more I learn about the new heavens and the new earth, the more I think learning will be one of the continual gifts of eternal life.

Learning is one of the prime gifts God gives us on earth, so it makes sense that our process of learning in heaven might be even more magnificent.

[photo by joshua-alfaro-353879-unsplash]