Mom, what’s an atheist?
An atheist is someone who does not believe in God.
Is is because they haven’t had that big God moment yet?
I’m not sure. There truly are God moments all day, every day, so I’m not really sure what kind of moment they are looking for. I’m here to tell you though, that no matter how small or big the situation, I personally don’t want to think that God is not there. That would be really bad.
What do you mean, really bad?
Bad things happen all day every day, but I need to know that I have God’s grace and protection through anything. There is just too much evil not to have God on your side. That’s just the way it is.
So are you saying that if I haven’t seen evidence of God’s work, then something really bad is going to happen to me?
What I am saying is if you are questioning God’s power, you need to do some research. You need to read the Bible, you need to journal your thoughts and questions. You. Need. To. Pray.
But what if I’m not sure who to pray to?
This conversation almost sent me over the edge as a parent. For the last 15 years, I have raised my children in Christian home. We’ve had family Bible study and devotional time. We know and understand the importance of Christmas and Easter. We pray together. We go to church. We volunteer with the church. We talk forgiveness and Christ’s love, and hope, and faith.
But even in my house. Even in a house where we praise His name, there are still questions.
And this time, it seemed that no matter what my answer was, there were still more questions.
Before the night was over, I was a wreck. I honestly wish I could tell you that I was able to have this discussion without judgement or frustration. I wish I could tell you that I showed this child biblical scriptures and passages that lead to a total moment of clarity.
I can’t tell you that because it did not happen. What did happen was the fact that I lost it. Completely. And that conversation ended with one of my children spouting the words, “Then I am an atheist.”
The following moments were full of tears and uncertainty. I think I may have even rambled on about attacks of the enemy and how I’m not the one. I immediately sent a text message to two close friends explaining to them what happened and asking them to pray immediately. I think took a moment to pray myself.
And then, life happened. I had to cook dinner. I had to sign papers for school. I had to oversee homework activities. I had to be a mom.
A critically-wounded one at that.
My friends replied that they were praying. And one of them said, “Use this instance to teach about grace and mercy. You need to apologize for losing it.”
Oh my. I believe in God. I know His power. I’m not the one questioning his existence. And I need to apologize?
And then I heard God’s voice, rather clearly. Yes.
So that night, after dinner, after all of the routine activities, I went to that child and and I apologized. I apologized for blowing my gasket and not listening and I apologized for shutting down the conversation without any solid suggestions or examples of God’s love.
By this point in our evening, the siblings were involved. And now they had questions. They didn’t express a need to understand God’s existence, they wanted to talk about the God moments they’ve had and how they could quench their thirst for more knowledge.
I was emotionally spent. I wasn’t able to have a conversation about the dinner dishes, much less the Bible. I really just wanted to go to bed and cry until the morning. But I had two more kids who wanted to talk. Who needed to talk. And who needed to understand what caused their mom, who ordinarily has it together, to lose it completely.
So we began to talk.
I had just received the Essential Teen Study Bible in the mail for another project I was working on. As a B&H Publishing/ Lifeway Christian Stores blogger, I partner with them to review new books they publish.
The timing was perfect. As we started talking and using the book as the foundation for our discussion, I calmed down. Before I knew it, the child who had the initial questions came to the living room to participate.
I would absolutely love for this story to end with, “And all the children knew God’s word and we fought the enemy spot on.” That didn’t happen.
What did happen, though, was that we starting researching. We searched the topical index and found appropriate experiences in our lives. We talked about my cancer. We talked about the divorce. We talked about some really bad things they’ve seen at school. I talked about the moments I’ve had when I’ve seen God’s work firsthand. And we used scripture for the basis of the discussion.
For the first time that evening, I felt that with God’s leadership, I can help my child. A few hours before, I wanted to wash my hands of the situation and never deal with it again.
God showed me that no matter how badly I want to, I cannot give up on my children. No matter how old they are. No matter how confused they may be. No matter what they don’t understand. I cannot give up. Ever.
I have found that as my kids become older, they need study bibles that can provide great historical value, but also be age appropriate. Until recently, all of the bibles in our house were either for adults (me) or small children (them 4-5 years ago).
This bible features special introductions to each book and gives details about the writer of the book, the timeframe in which it was written, why it was written, and how it fits into God’s story. Additionally there are memory verses, essential questions, a redemption thread, and a behind the story element that helps teens better understand the biblical text.
This bible not only helped me that night. It has earned a permanent place on the coffee table in our living room and is starting to get the frayed edges that comes with use.
His grace and mercy. That is all I have in this situation. And thanks this reminder from the Essential Teen Study Bible, that’s all I need to know. If you have teenagers, I strongly recommend this book for them. This bible will balance historical information with topical information with virtuous information that will ease the transition from child to adulthood. It will.
Can I just say something here? I know this one is hard. And I know it’s not over. I know that I’ve got to keep the doors of communication open, and I’ve got to exhibit all of the characteristics I want them to live daily. And I’ve got to ask God for his help in this because if I try to fix it myself, we will be in a bigger mess than we were before.
The days of parenting teenagers with open hearts, open minds, and a firm hand are tough. This season can make you question every thing you know to be true. Especially if you are called upon to it while allowing God’s light to shine through you. All. The. Time.
As much as I wish this story would be over at the time this post is written, I know that it is not. Would you mind praying for our family as we grapple with these issues and for me specifically as I process this as the leader of our home? And while we’re on the subject, tell me, have you ever had a moment that left you in shock, disbelief, and really confused about what to do next on your spiritual journey?