A theological conversation

I love seeing how my young children’s minds work. They obviously ponder things long after we have mentioned them. The other day my six-year old daughter asked me a very profound question. “Momma, if God is all-powerful, does He make us do things?”  What a great question!

I probed a little further just to be sure I wasn’t misinterpreting her question. (Sort of like the mom who gave a hugely anatomically detailed response in response to her son’s question of “where did I come from?” only to have him reply, “Oh, I just wanted to know ’cause my friend Danny’s from Cleveland.”)  I asked her what she meant, and the gist of it was that she was curious if God made her act in certain ways because He is all-powerful.

“Well, no, honey. God wants us to choose to love Him. He gives us a new heart so we can love him, but we still have free will. We can choose not to obey Him. Remember, the Bible says that if we love Him, we will obey His commands.”

“Oh. Momma, what’s free will?”

“Free will is your ‘want-to’. It is your ability to decide to obey or not obey God or me or your Daddy. Free will is what enables us to choose to do the right thing and also allows us to choose to do the wrong thing.”

“Oh, okay. I’ll go play now.”

I suspect that this conversation is not finished. And goodness knows that my answer was so incomplete! How exactly does one answer these deep questions? I don’t think I pondered this myself until I was over thirty! The sovereignty of God and His all-powerfulness are hard topics to grasp. My children have from time-to-time asked me hard questions. I like that they are thinking these things through and trying to make sense of concepts that are hard to understand.

My six year old was given a one-year Bible story book for Christmas. We have stayed pretty much on track–we sometimes get behind and then have to catch up, but we are generally right on target. She was so excited when we finally got to Jesus’ birth last week. I am always amazed at what concepts she picks up from our reading. Sometimes, though, I think she gives the Sunday School answer. You know the story: the Sunday school teacher described a small, tree dwelling creature with pouch-like cheeks and a bushy tail and asked the children what it was. A little boy raised his hand and replied, “That sure sounds like a squirrel, Mrs. Smith, but I know the answer is Jesus.” Sometimes I think I do that, too. I give the Sunday school answer instead of thinking through a difficult thing.

It is good to struggle through our faith. Not because struggle in itself is good, but because we need the opportunity to make faith our own. Faith grows the most in adversity, which is something I have found to be very true in my own walk. It is easy to justify behavior or actions, to say that something isn’t all that bad (take my idolatry of food, for example). It is hard to take a good hard look at our behavior and see it for what it is and to repent. Like the butterfly emerging from the cocoon, we struggle until we come out on the other side a more beautiful creature. It would be so much easier if God just made us do what He wanted. But a robot cannot love. It cannot chose to disobey. It can only do what it is programmed to do. And God did not make us robots. He chose instead to make us in his image, with the privilege of contrary choice (that is we could choose to love and obey Him or hate and disobey Him) so that we could ultimately, through Jesus Christ, have a relationship with Him.  These are all things I wish my daughter to know–things she is almost old enough to understand.

I still am not sure how to answer my six-year old’s question. What I do know is that the discipleship of my children is not something that happens once a week at church. It happens in the day-to-day happenings: as we eat meals, as we garden, as we work, as we do our school lessons. My fifteen year old was absolutely convicted of her sinful state when she was six years old during a lesson on Christopher Columbus. She prayed to ask Jesus into her heart on our living room sofa between history and math. Over the years, it has been my joy to see several of my children come to understand their need for a savior. Along the way they have all asked hard questions. The important thing is not that I know all the answers, but that the conversation with my children stays open. I am sure the topic of God’s all-powerfulness and our free will will come up again, and it is my joy to know that I will likely be right here to help her learn to think it through. And one day soon, I am sure she, too, will understand her need for a savior and how God provided for it through the perfect sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.

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