Christian youth programs ask kids to do some wild and crazy things. Take last weekend, for example, when I took my daughter to our second-ever mother-daughter retreat at Camp Berea on Newfound Lake in New Hampshire, where she asked me some really big questions, like:
Having some fun draws the focus of 200 eyeballs to the center platform where a pastor can then explain how much Jesus loves us and how we can live for him. I also suggested that skits and challenges like that can help satisfy the developing brain’s need to do something risky and ridiculous while still staying safe. It’s why we try the high ropes course and rock climbing and kayak and canoe and play archery tag and maybe even shoot a rifle (you know, if you want to get really really crazy). And back in high school, it explained how when I participated in a volleyball and tug-of-war tournament in the church parking lot, I did so while standing in two-foot deep pits of squishy, squelchy mud. (I was still picking mud out of my ears weeks later.)
And when you’re older, say, parent-age, it’s all so when you’re sitting out on the rocks at the edge of the lake during a lull in the action at camp that your daughter can ask you other questions, like,
We clearly live in New England.
And also: Maybe this retreat was worth picking off the ticks and scratching those mosquito bites.
All I could do in those moments was be glad that I packed my own insulated to-go cups so I could have an Earl Grey to sip on while I took a stab at answering her questions.
What’s the point of God? God explains it all. He tells us who we are (his), what we’re meant to do on this earth (love God and love others), where we’re going after we die (heaven), how we’re going to get there (Jesus) and why he set this whole creation thing in motion in the first place (love). The when is the only mystery. All we can say is “in his time” and pray we have enough faith to believe that he will continue to fulfill his promises.
But how do I know that God’s real? That’s a tough one. Tough to explain to my daughter whose brain is still geared toward absolutes. Tough because I can’t give her an absolute. Unless, of course, she turns out to be one of those people who reads scripture and just knows it to be true. This is, in fact, the very reason Luke gives when he writes his account of the gospel to Theophilus, which is a name for anyone who loves God:
“Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.” (Luke 1:1-4, emphasis mine)
Beyond Luke though, and throughout time, different people have found God in different ways, I explained. Some pray and see their prayers answered. Some are awed by creation. Some see other worldly beauty in art. Some believe God has intervened by sending friends and neighbors to them when they needed help.
And some people look at their amazing children and know they can take no credit for the wonder they see. These people truly were made, were designed, were given.
I also told her this: that this isn’t the first time she’ll ask these questions. Keep asking, I said. Never stop searching. And know that likewise, God will never stop reaching for you. He doesn’t get fatigued, and he certainly doesn’t feel the thigh burn after an epic game of capture the flag. He keeps going, keeps chasing, keeps loving.
I’m not sure I can handle another night in a bunk bed, but from where I sit now in my bug-free kitchen, I’m thinking I should probably try, so that at the very least, once a year there’s a chance to sit on those rocks and check in. I could do more, I’m sure, but it’s a place to start. And God knows, every little bit helps.
Our speaker for the weekend, Pastor Shaina Morrow, urged us mothers to fight for our daughters.
“And when you fight,” she reminded us as she kneeled on stage, “you fight on your knees.”
Mine may creak and my tight thighs may protest, but I’m going to get down there. And then I’m going to get down there again.
Here you will find a catalog of my writing and reflections.