What do you say when children or youth ask you hard questions about God? I recently read a story of a mother who was asked a tough question by her six-year-old in the middle of a church service. “Mom,” said the little girl who was tightly gripping her coloring pencil as she colored the Bible picture in the church bulletin, “Is this stuff actually true? Like, did these Bible stories really happen, or are they all just made up?” Stunned, and hoping the church member next to her didn’t hear her daughter, the mother leaned over and whispered, “Well…what do you think?" Without missing a beat her daughter replied, “If it’s not real, a whole lot of people are lying!”
Kids can sometimes ask hard questions, which can make us feel uncomfortable, insecure, and even embarrassed. One of the challenges parents can often face is feeling the need to provide an immediate answer. We feel the burden of needing to provide proof for each question raised. Could it be, however, that what is most needed is not proof of the answer but validation of a young person’s question?
When dealing with doubters, Jesus would often validate genuine questions people asked. He did so even when it came from one of His Apostles who had spent three and a half years with Him. Who am I referring to? You may have guessed it already; we are talking about Thomas, whose very name brings to mind the word “doubt.” After the other disciples came to Thomas and told him they had encountered the risen Christ, He did not believe them. Thomas said, “Unless I see in his hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25). Suddenly Jesus appeared in that upper room where Thomas was with the other disciples. Instead of Jesus rebuking Thomas for his unbelief, he said to Thomas, “Reach.…” Jesus invited Thomas to reach while he doubted, reach while he was experiencing anxiety, reach when life was not making sense to him. Jesus wanted Thomas to know that He heard him and He invited him to reach.
Questions can often be opportunities to enter into a conversation with young people. Young people have a lot of questions about their faith, but that does not always need to be a cause for concern, but rather can provide an opportunity for meaningful conversation.
While reflecting on the importance of allowing young people to ask questions in a safe environment, I couldn’t help but realize that such questions are not only heard but welcomed at Sligo Church. In my conversations with young and older alike, I have found people drawn to Sligo because of the opportunities they have to ask questions in a safe place. And when it comes down to it, isn't the ability to be vulnerable with one another the very thing that creates a rich soil for relationships to grow?