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]
God grew my trust muscles during a time of terrifying limited vision for my immediate future.
To me as an adult now, that sounds like an extremely overdramatic depiction of my situation then. But to me as a thirteen-year-old, entering a huge new high school–with no friends–was scary.
I was leaving a tiny Christian school with an eighth-grade graduating class of thirteen. I had known each student for years. Becoming a part of a public school of sixteen hundred unknown students was daunting.
It didn’t help that the only person I knew who was also going to my new school was a girl who had been the primary instigator of my seventh-grade bullying. Knowing she had spread lies about me for years did not give me confidence that she would not do the same in the new school. I longed for a good experience meeting people and making friends in a new environment.
My limited vision made me feel lonely and afraid.
Knowing God was with me was not the same as feeling confident. Hearing from parents that I would be fine did not take away the knot in my stomach.
Joshua 1: 8–“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” was a verse I claimed–though I certainly had no physical enemies to slay.
My parents prayed with me and for me in my fear.
I’m sure it helped that they believed I would be fine. But it also helped that they validated my fear by praying for me in it.
I have a vague memory that my mom also told me that I didn’t need to make friends with everyone on that day. And she encouraged me that many other people would be feeling much the same way I was.
She told me to try to find one person I could connect with. Then after school that day she asked me if I could tell her about one person I thought I might be able to be friends with. I could–I excitedly told her about many possibilities.
When God told Joshua to be strong and courageous, he wasn’t telling him he had to do all the work alone. God rarely tells us we need to do our work completely in solitude. He calls us to community.
Sometimes the work he calls us to is finding our community. At other times it’s finding other people who need the community that comes from walking with Jesus Christ together.
In that way God blessed me with two very different parents who each helped me see different parts of what God was calling me to.
My mom helped me in figuring out how to be open to people who were possibly feeling as alone and in need of a friend as I was. She helped me see them as potential friends rather than as threats.
My dad helped me see each new friend or even acquaintance as someone who might be yearning to know who Jesus Christ was. The great thing is that God doesn’t have limited vision. We can trust his vision.
Will Jesus Return on Glorious Fiery Clouds?
Will Jesus’ physical presence simply overwhelm every outdoor and indoor space, making all instantly aware of him at the same moment?
No matter how it happens—and whether it happens in our lifetimes or not—we will all know. Immediately.
One of my favorite memories of high school is of ending our Bible study lesson from The Uniqueness of Jesus. That day one of the girls in our new-believer group had an excited question: “Lisa, when it happens–when Jesus returns–promise to call me right away! Okay?”
I assured her that she would know as soon as I would, because Jesus was her savior too.
But I was amused. The thought had never occurred to me. I knew no one would need to call anyone else to alert them that Jesus had returned. But this new believer, only 14 years old, thought it logical. Since I had first told her about Jesus, she thought I would have the news before she did.
Her passionate enthusiasm for the day of Jesus’ return was contagious. She was excited and wanted it to happen soon.
I wanted to want that too. But I didn’t always live with that thought in mind.
In fact, a couple years later I remember asking my mom if it was bad that I didn’t want Jesus to come back yet. She gave me a comforting answer.
She told me that at my young age it made sense that I wanted to be able to live a while to experience so much of what life promised me. There were good things in life that God wanted me to enjoy and to look forward to.
Yet . . . I think we often fail to focus on what a greater reality we have to look forward to in spending the rest of eternity with God.
Do we need to tell our children they need to spend their time longing for Jesus’ return and for heaven? I don’t think so.
When my eleven-year-old confessed mournfully that she didn’t really want to go to heaven, I comforted her, as my mom had comforted me.
I asked her why. She told me that it did not sound appealing to sing all the time. I laughed and told her how normal she was. I said heaven would absolutely not require constant singing. It would better than the best things we can imagine.
Most of us can relate to not wanting to do anything all the time.
But we also do not want to be like the Laodiceans in Revelation 3: 16-17: “I know your deeds; you are neither cold nor hot. How I wish you were one or the other. So because you are lukewarm — neither hot nor cold — I am about to spit you out of My mouth.”
How can we cultivate in ourselves the excitement of my young friend? Can we help our children see Jesus as real? And that living face to face with God is going to be unimaginably wonderful?
How can we regain our first excitement and help our children capture it also?
Bullying gave my dad an opportunity to change my life for the better.
I’m so glad I never had to deal with cyber bullying. I don’t know how I would have handled that. Compared to that, what I went through was not a big deal.
Yet any time a child is shunned, mocked, or picked on by peers is traumatic. Especially when it goes on for months.
My parents assumed I would not be harmed for life by these experiences if they allowed me to learn to trust God.
Fortunately for me, they were right.
But their responses could have harmed me.
They could have said it was no big deal to be called names repeatedly. Over-reacting could have been just as bad. I would have been mortified if they had immediately gone to the teacher with my complaints. I needed to vent, but I didn’t need to be babied.
Finally, though, girls flushed my underwear down the toilet and pummeled me on the way from the shower to my locker. That day my dad went to the principal and the gym teacher. I’m glad he did.
But I’m even more glad that he first used my situation to teach me about standing my ground in persecution.
“Persecution” sounds like an over-statement for being picked on for doing the right thing. But I have been permanently blessed by the fact that my dad took my bullying experience seriously enough to encourage me with verses from James 1. He read me verses 2-5 in many different versions:
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. (NIV)
Day after day.
I remember complaining that I had those verses memorized in different versions because of how many times Dad read them to me.
And I was not being thrown to the lions for proclaiming Christ. I was simply being bullied for obeying the teacher and taking a shower after gym. Stupid, right?
We all hated to shower in front of others but were forced to tell the teacher we had done it in order to get daily points. I chose not to lie about it. My Christian classmates must have felt guilty for lying, so they took it out on me.
How my dad responded to my troubles dignified my experience.
He showed me that living my life for Christ in little situations was important, even in bullying. He showed me that God would bless me through my obedience. And he always prayed with me about it. Every day.
The amazing thing is that now I look back on seventh grade as a time of huge spiritual growth. Thanks, Dad.
What A Wrinkle in Time gets right is that scripture is essential in the lives of children. And that parents need to bring scripture directly into their children’s lives.
Meg’s dad may not have been adept in his use of Romans 8:28 with her. Especially since she was angry at him for botching her tessering and causing her so much pain.
Romans 8:28 is probably one of the most often poorly used Bible passages, and Meg’s dad’s use was no exception. Meg needed time to recover physically and emotionally before hearing this scripture from her dad. She was angry and needed to simmer down first.
But the passage was spot on from his perspective:
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (NIV)
He had just rescued Meg from the stunningly hypnotic power of IT and enabled the trio to find a way to rescue Charles. He was trusting that he was called by God and that God would use even negative events to serve his overarching purpose.
We may not approve of Madeleine L’Engle’s unorthodox ways of incorporating scripture into her fantasy characters’ lives. But we need to admire a father who calls his daughter’s attention to scripture in times of crisis.
I sometimes got pretty tired of my dad’s reading James 1 with me when people picked on me in junior high. My daughters have also admitted that they sometimes had a hard time relating to the scriptures I shared with them when praying through difficulties.
But James 1 stuck with me. At one point I had it memorized in several versions. It is still one of my favorite passages.
A daughter I shared countless passages with during her struggles came to me later with a request: “Mom, can you write down for me all the Bible passages you’ve shared with me?”
—What? Why? How am I supposed to remember them all?
I hadn’t even known at the time that the passages had helped her.
I knew she had a friend going through extremely serious struggles. It turned out she wanted to write these passages on index cards for her friend. She wanted to comfort her with them as they had comforted her. God’s use of his word in my daughter’s life, even when I hadn’t known it, amazed me.
I’m sure that by the end of the novel Meg’s dad would also have heard a much more positive response from Meg on Romans 8:28. By then Meg saw how everything did work out and that the negative event was a powerful learning experience in the triumph.
Meg would have seen with twenty-twenty hindsight that her dad had been seeing with eyes of faith. The tricky thing is that eyes of faith require faith–and have no proof.
How scary it is to speak words of faith into our children’s lives, when we really don’t know how God will work.
We just know he will. And that’s what A Wrinkle in Time gets right.