Like pastors' kids everywhere, my daughter spends a significant amount of time in church: in the sanctuary, in the classrooms and meeting rooms and, of course, in Daddy's office. I remember those days, being in Dad's office at the church. I knew where everything was — what pictures he had on the wall, what pieces of artwork he had around. I knew that office like it was just another room in my home. Which is why I am surprised when, from time to time, my daughter notices something in my office for the first time — as she did while we were preparing for an evening worship service during Lent.
I was sitting at my desk, hastily reading a few last minute things to help me get my thoughts together for the service. My 3-year-old was playing with the stash of toys that stay in my office for just such an occasion. And then, from behind me I heard her declare, "God is dead."
This is not exactly what your pastor wants to hear his child proclaim, no matter what her age. But I've been to this rodeo before, and I knew that the worst thing I could do was overreact. Maybe I misheard her. Maybe she was talking about something else. Maybe her words got jumbled, as often happens for 3-year-olds. So I asked, "What was that?" She walked over to me, "Is God dead, Daddy?"
OK, less of a proclamation, more of a question. "What do you mean?" She crawled onto my lap as I turned around in my desk chair. And then she pointed to the crucifix that hangs on my office wall, "Is God dead, Daddy?"
Ah, now this makes sense. She is a good Lutheran who understands Good Friday. This wasn't a crisis of faith in my toddler — it was a teaching opportunity. And so, all rushing to prepare for the service stopped. Now was the time to stop everything and answer her questions. We talked about Good Friday and the fact that Jesus died on the cross, and how sad that was. And then we talked about Easter, and how Jesus rose again, lives forever and we don't have to be sad anymore.
The point of this is not that my daughter is amazing (though she is), but about the importance of parents talking with their children about faith. Keep objects of faith around the house — crosses, Bibles, artwork. Bring your children to church to see the people gathering and hear the stories. Do those things, live your faith and they will ask you about it.
Just like grown-ups, children are trying to make sense of their world. The first place children are going to turn with their questions is to parents. Make the time to answer those questions. If you don't — if you're too busy to answer their questions, if the questions make you uncomfortable — then your children will learn there isn't enough time for faith and God is not something we talk about. And, well, a faith not talked about will die out and not be passed on to a new generation. A God not talked about from generation to generation may as well be dead.
Is God dead? Not in my house.
© 2013 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers