Sunday, June 26, 2011

But I don't love God

Sometime between Christmas and Easter, Cady started confessing to me (and her dad and her grandparents and her Sunday School teachers) that she doesn't love Jesus and God. Um, what?!?! I have no idea where this came from, but it appears to be here to stay for a bit. In other words, it wasn't a one time thing. Is there anything that the toddler of 2 seminary trained religion professors could say that would bother them more? Probably not. At least, not at this stage of the game.

Sample conversation:

Mandy/Chad/other adult (sings some song about God/Jesus loving people)
C: I don't love God and Jesus.
M/C/OA: Well, they love you.
C: Why? I don't love them.
M/C/OA: Because God made you and thinks you are wonderful. God and Jesus both love you very much.
C: But I don't love them.
M/C: (huge sigh) That's fine, C. God loves you anyway.
C: Well, I don't love God. I love Mommy and Daddy and (here she lists a string of family and friends that she does love), but I don't love God.

Oh. my. word. Be still my heart. The first time this occurred (I think) was when C interrupted me singing "Tell Me Why" one night. I tried to have a conversation with her about it, but it didn't really go anywhere. We've decided not to make a big deal out of it because that seems to make it worse, but we have done our part trying to understand it. Cady LOVES going to church and increasingly she LOVES hearing Bible stories. But, she's not so sure about God and Jesus. And, while she'll pray before meals occasionally, she's growing unsure about doing that too (though she's happy for you to pray for the meal...usually!). Our best guess is that C says she doesn't love God because she doesn't know God/can't see God and, you know, that makes sense. We don't teach C about Santa or the Easter Bunny so she doesn't have any context for believing in the unseen outside of God and Jesus (which I think will pay off because our child will never equate - hopefully - the fictional characters of Santa Clause/Easter Bunny with our real, but unseen God).

I must admit I'm proud of C for not just taking our word for it that she should love God. I know she's only 3 and that part of this "I don't love God" phase is probably (mostly?) because she knows we want her to love God. BUT, I'm still proud of her questioning and her curiosity and her desire to understand. I'm also proud of how Chad and I have handled it. We want C to grow up being comfortable questioning the things we tell her...not "don't touch the stove" type things, but the things we tell her about God and Jesus and the Bible (and a whole host of other non-religious things, but that's a different post for a different day). I want her to read and discover and decide for herself. I want this for her because I want her to feel safe discussing her doubts and fears and concerns about God, Jesus, and the church with us...within the safety of our Christian home. I don't want my child's faith story to resemble that of so many people that I have come to know in my years since Judson. So many people choose to abandon their faith completely when they have questions because no one taught them to value their curiosity. They find their intellect incompatible with the faith they've been taught so they assume it's an either/or thing. I don't want that for C. Granted, part of having faith means not having all the answers, but it's not blind acceptance.

For now, we'll continue our new tradition of nightly Bible story time, continue listening to C talk about the "brave princess that's going to save Jesus," continue fielding questions about why some people wanted to kill Jesus, and continue taking her to church to be with people who love her and God. We'll pray that all three of us will emerge on the other end stronger, more committed Christians who are dedicated to the task of being the hands and feet of God in the world. And, yes, we hope she'll eventually admit that she loves God...and Jesus.


Sara-Beth said...

Great post and kudos to you for desiring your daughter's curiosity......not all parents have the courage to WANT their children to question things that they, the parents, so firmly believe in.

And you're right, in the long run it will be much better for Cady to have a loving and open home in which to question religion verses just a bunch of random friends who don't really have a direct clue as to what they do or do not believe.

My nephew is around Cady's age and while he has no problem (currently) praying and professing his love for God and Jesus, he will likely tell anyone that's not his mother, father, Gran or PawPaw that he does not love them.

Sample conversation:
Me: I love you, Michael
KMG: I don't love you.
Me: Why don't you love me?
KMG: Because I love my mommy and my daddy.
Kristy: Michael, you can love Aunt B too.
KMG: No. I love my mommy and my daddy and my gran and my pawpaw.
Me: Well when can you love me?
KMG: I guess I can't.

Kristy seems to think that HE thinks that perhaps he only has the capacity to love a few people at a time and therefore he chooses the four people he sees the most. I don't know, but I'm ready for him to admit he loves me!!

I'll be thinking about your little family. And again, great job with might just be raising a little girl who loves God for the RIGHT reasons and not just because someone told her to.

Anonymous said...

Let me just say that I think it's hilarious that are children have already identified religion as the best way rebel against their parents.

T is doing the same thing. Jacob is more worried than I. Hang in there.

Mandy Mc said...

Thanks for your thoughts, friends. S-B, I'm sure KMG will realize soon how very much he loves you!

And, M, yes, it is hilarious for now, but I shudder to think about how our strong willed daughters might use this rebellion when they hit adolescence. I hope you're still giving me lists of books to read then ;-)

Melissa said...

I'm glad you finished this post; I'm curious to know how you will handle it when C asks you guys about Santa or the Easter Bunny because her friends have been taught to "believe" in them and bring them up. Now that I have my own little one I'm having to think about such things and how we will handle all of it. C is so smart and I wonder how she will respond to the other children when they mention Santa and EB.

Mandy Mc said...

Melissa, if I ever get my act together during Advent/Christmas, we will probably celebrate St. Nicholas day with C. That way C will know the origin of Santa Clause. Hopefully this will be something we can share with her friends in the form of a St. Nicholas party like the ones my friend Melissa Florer-Bixler (she commented above) hosts for her daughter T.

With regards to responding to the beliefs of other children, we will likely coach C not to say anything. If she wants to share about St. Nicholas, great, but I certainly won't expect her too and I will caution her NOT to tell them that Santa is not real. She is being taught to listen to and respect the opinions of others so hopefully this will be one more arena in which to do so. I'm not saying it will be easy, but it seems the best approach. I don't want mad phone calls from parents and I don't want C in a position where she's outnumbered and trying to prove her case. So far it hasn't been an issue, but I know it likely will be. Unfortunately Santa Clause is everywhere...including lots of churches. Good luck!

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