child, love“Dad, how was God born?”

This is the question my five year old innocently asked as I was putting him to bed. It was followed by a series of other questions, “Can God fly? How does God see everything? Is God an old man?” The questions caught me off guard, if only because they were not what I was expecting to be asked by a sleepy little boy.

They are and remain good questions and I attempted to answer them as best as I could. However, as my son has asked the questions again the next day I realize that my answer did not satisfy his inquisitive mind or that he was still thinking about the explanations I provided. As a minister being asked questions about God, faith, and the church is a normal occurrence. I am supposed to have answers about these questions. When being asked them by a child in kindergarten it seems I may have some work to do.

Phil Vischer the creator of the popular series Veggie Tales puts it this way, “If we can’t explain the gospel to a third grader, we can’t explain it to anyone.” It is a powerful and perhaps damning statement about the challenge of explaining the core message of the Christian faith. Who or what is God? Why did Jesus die? Was he really God’s son? Did he really come back from the dead? What does that mean for me and my life?

These questions are central to the Christian message. They define what we believe and shape our response to a wide variety of situations. Christian outreach is prompted by what God has first done for us. As Christian’s we seek to address the ills found in society as a response to the grace God offers. In turn we too offer that grace. Our understanding of life, death and everything in between allows us to walk with those who grieve, suffer and despair in a unique way. So too are we able to share in moments of joy and jubilation.

So how do we answer questions about God from a five year old? When our children come to us with difficult questions about something that happened at school or something they discovered on the Internet how do we respond? In short, how do we provide faith formation to curious minds? As a Christian and as a minister I know how I approach this with my family and congregation.

However, I have concern for those who have no experience of God. When such questions are asked in these instances are they simply dismissed? Do parents without a faith background have a safe place to help them answer these questions? My concern arises for the question behind the question. Children are not only asking about who God is. The questions lurking in the background are what happens when I die, why is grandma sick and will you love me forever?

In a broken world, the answers we provide to these questions matter beyond our knowing.

* Will You Love Me Forever was originally published in the Northumberland Today on November 11, 2015.