Teaching Our Children to Love and Doubt
When I stumbled on Alissa BC’s blog not too long ago, it was like finding my own story packaged in beautiful prose. I didn’t know that there were other mothers out there wrestling with the same doubts and big questions as me. For the first time in months I really rested in the truth that I wasn’t alone. So when it came to picking our next installment in Loss and Parenting (the monthly series I’ve teamed up with Lauren Thompson for), I instantly thought of her. I hope you enjoy her beautiful and haunting truths.
The summer my husband and I decided we were ready to become parents, only one thing scared me, and it wasn’t the usual things. It wasn’t infertility or birth or loss of sleep. It was, and continues to be, the question of how I will speak to my children of God.
By that summer, I had already spent over three years trying to fix the problem of my dwindling faith, which seemed to seep out of me slowly like a tire leak. No matter how much I patched and pumped, the tire always wound up flat. Eventually, I threw my hands in the air, got out of the car, and started walking.
A year later, my son was born.
When I was pregnant, I used to stay up nights, sobbing into my hands because the questions still had not left and faith still had not returned. I had grown up on a steady diet of prayer and scripture and church, a legacy of faith passed down from my parents to me. But somewhere along the way, I had lost, or grown out of, this inheritance, and what would I give my children now, if I couldn’t give them this? What would I tell them about God and the universe and truth, when all I had for myself were endless questions, and the ashes of a smallest hope that God is love?
Before he was born, my son was given two different copies of children’s storybook bibles, one from my mother and one from a friend. When my son became old enough to toddle, he began to pick them off the bookshelf and bring them over to my lap. The first time he did this, I attempted to read the words. I got only a few pages in before my stomach began to churn at my own inauthenticity. Now, we just look through the pictures and talk about what we see as his pudgy fingers point and turn the pages. His favorite page is Noah’s Ark. He can find the elephant, spider, turtle, and owl. I don’t tell him how they came to be in the boat. I don’t tell him of a God who saw it fit to destroy what he couldn’t fix. But I know someday he will be old enough to read the story for himself.
I try not to worry too much about the answers I will give then. Instead, I try to take each day as it comes, to focus on offering hugs and kindness and love, more than theology. I try to remember my son has two parents, one whose faith is stronger than mine, and that we each have our own gifts to give him, our own legacy to pass on.
A few weeks ago, I had a dream that my son was a bit older and had a little brother. I went into their room to put them down for a nap, climbing up onto the dresser to close the curtains. At my feet there was a small wicker basket filled with things brought in from outside, acorns and leaves and dried butterfly wings. As I closed the curtains, the boys looked up at me from the floor with their big toddler eyes. I saw in their expressions all the questions they were asking without asking, about God and the universe and truth.
And I said to them without thinking, “There is a piece of God in everything. In you, and in me, and even in those butterfly wings.”
When I woke up, I felt more peace about parenting through doubt than I ever have. Because I have my own legacy to pass on, and it doesn’t involve ignoring the questions, or pretending I have more faith than I do, or painting the world as black and white. It involves wrestling through my doubt with a gentle honesty and finding pieces of God even in the questions and mystery.
Alissa BC is a writer, wife, and mother. You can find her writing her heart out about doubt, mystery, and other everyday discoveries at alissabc.com