The first of two questions I received yesterday came from Stevie. I’ll write on Stevie’s question first, and then address Olivia’s question either later today or tomorrow. Here’s what Stevie wrote.
“Yesterday my 8 year old granddaughter said to me, ‘It says ‘faith’ on your arm. Tell me what that means.’ Help me, please, explain to a child what it I have known for 60 years but for which I just don’t have the words.”
There are a lot of ways to take on your question, Stevie. Some would begin by simply quoting Scripture and use a passage like Hebrews 11:1 which says, “Faith is the reality of what we hope for, the proof of what we don’t see” (Common English Bible).
While Scriptural quotations can be helpful for those who have an established faith, I’ve found it’s not always the most helpful place to begin with children (and those adolescents and adults who are brand new to the idea of faith).
So where do I begin?
Well, I like to start conversations in very concrete, down to earth ways. I learned this from Jesus who often used this approach
I will start talking about faith with a child by saying something like, “You know there are a lot of things in our everyday life in which we have faith. When I go to the grocery store to buy milk, I have faith that it will be there. Or if I have a best friend named Steve at school, I have faith that when I get to school and see Steve that he will say hello to me. This is the first kind of faith that we have in life: faith in things we can touch or see. That faith comes from our experiences in life. Having faith makes our life not only easier, but happier. It gives me confidence to get out of bed on cold, rainy days.”
“While some of the things that we have faith in are things we can see – like the grocery store and our friend Steve, there are other things that we have faith in that we cannot see. I have faith, for instance, that my mom and dad love me. I can’t actually SEE their love for me flow out of their bodies in different colored rays – but I know it’s there in a lot of different ways. The way in which they hug me when they see me is one way I know, and the way they always remember to give me a card on my birthday is another way.”
“One of the most important expressions of faith in my life is my faith in God. Even though, I can’t see God – or see God’s love for me – directly, I can experience God’s love for me and God’s presence in my life in many different ways. When I go to school and take a test and get a bad grade, and I feel stupid and ashamed – lots of times something happens that reminds me I’m NOT stupid and that I’m still a good person who is loved. Or sometimes when I get sick with the flu and run a high fever, I get scared! But then something happens in my heart and my tummy that helps me believe things will turn out okay. I can’t tell you exactly why or how I know that. I just do. Those are experiences of faith for me.”
“There are so many things out there that are beyond my control: like whether or not I get exposed to the flu bug; how hard the teacher makes my math test; or whether mom or dad have a good day at work and are happy when they come home or whether they have a bad day at work and are sad when they come home. That would normally be scary. But faith is the thing in my life that gives me the confidence to feel that everything will turn out okay – because no matter what happens, I will NOT be alone. God is with me – and just feeling that helps me get out of bed on cold, rainy days. And warm, sunny days too!”
So how about you? How might you talk about faith with others?