Tonight, the questions were pouring. Where does God come from? Who made God? Who made the world? My almost 8 year old daughter who is far wiser than her 95 months on this earth wanted to have the religious discussion, I was only too happy to oblige.
Growing up in a Christian household, you’d think I would be only too happy to re explain the religion I’d known for a lifetime. It becomes a little more difficult when ensuring an open household completely free of any one particular influence and advocating free personal choice. I did grow up believing in one Christian God and attended church sporadically, Friday night youth and the occasional Sunday school. I was non denominational as far as I understood and being a Christian was something that just ‘was’. As I got older, life and personal experience had quite a bearing on my choice of religion and belief system and for a time, I was lost. I don’t think I believed in anything but myself for quite a while until I was drawn to the Pagan way of life and the freedom that Paganism allows for… That said, I would never deny or enforce any specific religion on anyone, let alone my own daughter.
After having Hayley, I made the decision to bring her up with Christian values and understanding, though refused to have her christened. This resulted in much judgement from many. The reason she wasn’t christened is because I chose not to be a hypocrite. I couldn’t promise in a church that I would raise Hayley to be a child of God when I myself was not sure that I even was one. I decided that one day, when she was old enough to decide for herself what life path she would choose to follow, she could make that choice and I’d be alongside her every step of the way. I did not enforce any one religion in my home and believed in the common denominator that is knowing right from wrong.
Hayley has grown up believing in God, Jesus and the bible. I have no problem with that, in fact I encourage any belief she has because at least she has a belief. She has something more than herself that she can turn to and she can build her own set of values based on what she has been taught. Who better to teach, than me :) I say this because I am able to give her as much information as possible in a completely non biased way as her mother, with only good intentions of education. She has been given the freedom to believe in whoever and whatever she wants without judgement or complaint, not something many children get a choice to do growing up. So tonight, when the questions flowed I answered every one of them as best and as neutrally as I could.
The conversation arose out of a discussion on Christmas and how excited she was for presents. I asked her what Christmas was and we quickly moved the conversation away from presents and as simply as we could, explained why Christians celebrate Christmas and about Jesus and the Christmas story. I should’ve known that the questions were coming… Who is God? Well, the best way to describe this was to ask her which came first, the chicken or the egg? You laugh but she understood the concept. Jp had to get a tad mathematical to explain the concept of infinity and that God has always been there and always will be, she was happy with this. So up next was ‘how did God make the world’? This was a little easier but not easy, all laid out in the bible it was purely a question of faith and believing that if God says it is so, that is how it will be. The most interesting question / idea for her was ‘Who is the devil’? I approached this one cautiously because I didn’t want to simplify the idea of evil but I did explain to her about Lucifer being an angel, what most fascinated her was the fact that the devil has a name. It’s a tricky conversation to have without applying too much influence, I kept it as basic as possible. I am not going into too much detail on the conversation because a) it was a very long conversation and b) it was for Hayley’s benefit and no one else’s. I’m no expert but we do the best we can, if my ex Sunday school teaching husband (ex teacher not ex husband) approves, I must’ve done something right. I explained to Hayley that I don’t mind what she believes in but that should she believe in anything at all, she needs to understand what she is believing in and why, that is all that matters to me.
What was really great was that she was asking questions, she wanted to know who in our family believed in God and I was able to give her some history on my grandparents and what a missionary does. We discussed the Ten Commandments and how they relate to our own values and knowledge of right from wrong. We briefly explained to her about other religions and that no one religion is wrong or right, that nothing is black or white. She herself verbalized that guess what, we all believe in something, it’s just what we believe that makes us different. It was a phenomenal conversation, one I thought I’d be having with my 13 year old in 5 years time and not my almost 8 year old tonight. She is still so innocent in her thoughts and yet wise beyond her years! Long gone are the days when talking religion is taboo, in fact, I love it. Why keep silent on the most interesting of topics… One thing that we all have in common? The one question she asked that I truly couldn’t answer? ‘Is Justin Bieber a Christian?’ My answer to that was, who knows babe, who knows.
When she asked me about what I believe in? I answered truthfully but tried to avoid confusion where possible. She was quite keen on the idea of a female Goddess but when Jp pulled out the Roman / Greek Gods, I think we lost her. I’m ok with that as well. She is after all, only 8. I would never want to confuse her or give her reason to doubt her own truths. One day, when her head is big enough to take it all in, I’ll let ex pastor husband (ex pastor not ex husband) and theologian give her all the information and education she needs to make an informed decision. All that matters is that she lives her life upholding the values that she has set for herself.
I’m giving myself a pat on the back tonight as I get into bed. Why? Because as a parent I MUST be doing something right to have created an environment where my children are free to have conversations like this one tonight… I am so proud that my daughter is intelligent enough to ask questions and is not just a follower. I am especially happy about the fact that a modern day family sat on a Sunday evening discussing a topic that in times before ours, was not permitted. I’m just amazed by her in general… She does that sometimes ;)
Shortly before bed she asked me if vampires were real. I had to assure her (sadly may I add) that they were indeed not real along with werewolves and zombies. She ended off the conversation with “Mommy, there is no such thing as Santa”. I guess that’s that.