By Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3
Last night we heard the familiar sound of footsteps on the stairs well past bedtime. From the living room, I heard Tom talking in the kitchen to the kid who couldn’t sleep. Over the years, we’ve heard every “I can’t sleep” excuse in the book – not tired, too thirsty, too dark, monster under the bed – but this time was different.
This time it was a question, one of the biggest we’ve faced: “Dad, I know that people die sometimes. And I know we believe in God and Heaven and everything… but what if we’re wrong?”
We probably should have seen it coming. In the past six weeks, we’ve been to two out-of-town funerals for family members. The kids didn’t attend the funerals with us, but they knew why we were leaving them with a sitter.
So there it was, hanging in the air: “What if we’re wrong?” But unlike the proverbial monster under the bed, this fear is all too real.
His innocent question echoed the same one I’ve had myself, the same one millions of us have, if only for a split second. But the question brings with it a familiar stab of shame for what feels like a lack of faith. I’ve grown up in church. I know better. At my core, I believe I’m a child of God. I believe in Heaven, even though my human mind is ill-equipped to imagine it.
Tom believes these things, too, and he did a good job of explaining it last night. He told him it’s okay to have questions and it’s normal to wonder if it’s all really real. It’s okay to talk about it with us and with Sunday school teachers, he said. And it’s even okay to talk to God about it. He knows what we’re thinking, and He can handle it.
After they’d talked for a few minutes, I heard a quiet voice ask, “Is it okay if I sleep in your bed tonight?” Sure. That would be fine, Tom said. Our boy fell asleep quickly after that, with his dad’s reassuring hand resting on his back.
As the two of them drifted off to sleep, I laid awake thinking about how kids eventually get old enough to realize that grown-ups sometimes get things wrong. And if we can be wrong about little things then it means we can be wrong about big things, too. It’s a scary feeling. I pray we’ll be able to assure our kids of the things we know in our hearts to be true. But I also know they’ll have to find their own ways of knowing that God is real.
For me, I see spiritual assurance almost everywhere, when I get out of my own way. It practically demands attention. It’s in the skies and the trees. It’s in massive whales and tiny insects. It’s sunlight and mountains and expansive fields. Oceans and lightning. It’s the fine-tuned complexity of the human body. It’s kindness. Compassion. And love. I felt it so strongly the first moment I looked into the face of our newborn baby – that miracles like this can only come from God, certainly not some grand accident.
All of it convinces me and convicts me of what I know to be true – that a world this creative can only come from a Creator. It’s the reassuring hand of a Heavenly Father resting gently on our backs. And if His first act is this amazing, I can hardly wait to see what He has in store for us next.