Being OK with "I don't know."
by Ashley Ford
Every night—Eh-Vah-Ree night—before bed, my children like to engage the poor schmuck who does their bedtime routine in what we call “Theology 101.”
Before we go any further, gentle reader, let’s define some terminology. First, by “poor schmuck,” I mean it’s either me or my husband. We dearly love our children, we just also really like listening to absolute silence and the bliss of no one touching us. I mean, we like other things too, but these two items rank pretty high up there in our mid-30s.
Next, “Theology 101” consists of all the hard questions our kids have: A) Either been wondering in their hearts, or B) Carefully chosen as the most likely to delay bedtime. Recent questions from my children, along with my answers, include:
Child 1: “Why was it ok for Jesus as a kid to not tell His mom where he was going before He went to the temple?”
Me: “Alright, so…” I start stretching, because maybe blood flow will help. “Aaaa…ermmm,” and, you know, I think I’ve made more attractive noises while gargling. I finally shake my head in defeat. “Listen, I have no idea on this one. It’s Jesus, and we know that Jesus is good and without sin, so there’s just something I’m missing in this story. I’ll look it up or ask someone. Hey, on an unrelated note, you know that you always have to check in with me or your dad before going somewhere, right?”
Child 2: “How come the Holy Spirit, and God, and Jesus are all one? How does that work?”
Me: No blessed idea, child. “Ummmm…I think this is just something you have to go with. Don’t get me wrong: it’s good to ask questions about your faith and God and the Bible and things you don’t understand, because God is good and He’s big enough for your questions. But there are things about God that you just have to go with, and the whole One God who is Three Persons thing is one of ‘em. So, yeah, go with this.”
Child 3: “If God is in control of everything, why does He let the bad things happen?”
Ah, my children, always keeping me on my toes. While they’re hard questions, my husband and I try our best to answer them. Except, sometimes our best efforts still mean we don’t have the answer. And I don’t think I’ve ever been more keenly aware of what I didn’t know about the Lord until that particular question. I walked back into my daughter’s bedroom and slowly sank down to sit on her bed. It’s never bothered me to not have all the answers to their questions, except I knew—I knew—that this is the kind of question that I couldn’t leave open in her heart. This question was like an open sore: treat it, or watch it fester.
Do other parents feel like they know what they’re doing? I wondered. Because I sure don’t. Discipling my children seemed (and still sometimes seems, to be honest) like climbing Mt. Everest. It’s a herculean task for which I felt ill-equipped, to say the least. I prayed for wisdom and the right words quickly.
“Well…” I began slowly. “God’s Word says that the bad things and sickness and sadness came into the world because of sin. That’s where we are now: we live in a world that’s full of those sad, bad things, and we can see them in our lives and in other people’s lives, too. And just because we love Jesus, well, it doesn’t mean that bad things won’t happen to us, because they will. But…” I suddenly felt more hopeful as I heard my words teaching my daughter and myself. “But, because of Jesus, we can focus on the goodness of God and who He is. Nothing bad that happens will ever be bigger than God. God’s Word also says that He uses everything that happens for His glory and our good. And one day, He’ll undo all the bad things. We get to be part of this promise when we ask Jesus to be our forever king and savior.”
As my daughter was considering what I told her, I felt the Lord stirring my heart to a realization. I will never have all the right answers to my kids’ questions about God or the Bible or why God does what He does. I just won’t, and that’s ok. Here’s the thing I had forgotten though: Christians come to faith because we know we need Jesus, not because we know all the answers.
If I wait to disciple my kids until I feel like I have all the answers, I’m going to miss some (maybe all!) of the golden years. Instead, the goal of discipleship is to continually teach our children who the Lord is, and why they (and we!) need Jesus. I don’t know why the storms come, but the Bible clearly teaches who is in control of all the storms. And thankfully, the Bible has a lot to say about God’s character. I can’t always answer their questions, but through God’s Word and the Holy Spirit, I can draw them back to the loving, faithful, kind, and merciful Father that I know (and I pray that they will know).
Teaching our children about the Lord is a monumental task, and it’s one that we should feel the weight of. Read your Bible, pray, and go to church. Cultivate community in your own life. Do these things that you’ve been commanded to do. But while you’re doing them, take your children with you on your journey, and be encouraged. The Lord can do big things through a parent who says “I don’t know the answer to your question. But let’s open our Bible and see who God says He is…”
Here are some of our family’s favorite resources to do this together:
- The Big Picture Storybook Bible, by David Helm (this is a great preschool Bible)
- The Jesus Storybook Bible, by Sally Lloyd-Jones
- The Action Bible, by David C. Cook (It’s like a comic!)
- Seeds Family Worship (Scripture put to music and this is straight-up GOLD in the car)
- Training Hearts, Teaching Minds: Family Devotions Based on the Shorter Catechism, by Starr Meade
- New City Catechism (recommended by other Sojourn families)
- What’s in the Bible? (It’s a DVD series walking through the Bible book by book created by the guy who did Veggietales. Contains puppets!
If you've got a teenager, check out these resources:
- How to Follow Jesus, by Craig Springer
- 41 Deposits: Crucial Conversations for Father and Sons, by Steve Graves
- Concise Theology, by J.I. Packer
- Essential Truths of the Christian Faith, by R.C. Sproul
(The last two are clear, simple, 5-minutes-a-day explanations of Christian doctrine)
Ashley Ford has been married to her husband Mike for 12 years, and they have three brilliant children who make them laugh. She regularly serves in a few different areas at Sojourn East. Ashley has strong opinions concerning Beagles, the Chuy’s Nacho Car and toys that don’t have volume control.