“Miss Janelle. Where do the waves come from?”
The question was asked with serious focus. I was standing in the ocean with my pastor’s 2nd oldest daughter, Claire. We were having a blast jumping the waves (as much as you can jump waves in ankle deep water) on what might have been the hottest day I have ever been on the beach. The icy water of the Atlantic Ocean felt cool and refreshing thanks to the 90 degree air temperature. The water in front of us and the beach behind us were full of people from our church hanging out and enjoying the day. Later on we would celebrate water baptisms but for now Claire and I were focused on spending as much time in the water as possible.
But now we needed to pause. A question had been asked and Claire seemed pretty sure I had the answer. In the space of about five seconds my brain ran through several thoughts at once.
Waves are linked to the tides
Tides are affected by the moon
This is a child about to start kindergarten
There is no way the moon and tides explanation is going to make any sense
What came out of my mouth was a mish mosh of sentences about how some physical things like boats sailing by, as well as the movement of the wind over the water can cause waves. It was inelegant, not very scientific and honestly not totally correct. But it was what I came up with on the fly. Claire looked at me a bit suspiciously. She may only be 5 years old but she has a very wise soul. She eventually nodded her head and said “That’s cool” and then we went back to jumping the waves.
It was another moment where I was confronted with the concept of what faith like a child actually looks like in the practical. How many times have I read the passage of Scripture where Jesus says to enter the kingdom of heaven you must have faith like a child? And how often did I resent that same verse when it was thrown at me as a reason to stop asking the questions I so often have about the faith I hold so dearly.
Why do bad things happen to good people? Have faith like a child
Why does God answer some prayers and not others? Have faith like a child
Why do some experience a supernatural healing and others die? Have faith like a child
How can God be truly good? Have faith like a child
Does God even really exist? Have faith like a child.
The verse started feeling like a weapon. And I resented it. And then my sister had children. And I was around children more than I had ever been in my life and I figured something out. Do you know what children do? Do you know what they do constantly? They ask questions.
When are we going there?
What are we doing today?
What are we eating
Where are you going?
What are you doing?
Why is the sky blue?
Why do some people pick their noses?
Why do we go to school?
And on and on and on. Children rarely accept the reality they are in. They want to know why. And they want to know why now. So maybe all this time when I’ve felt that faith like a child meant “Shut up and stop asking me questions.” What it actually meant was “You have questions? Come to me and ask them. You’re a child that’s what you do.”
Here’s the interesting part. Sometimes kids ask questions and the answer to that question is too complicated so we “dumb it down” a little bit. And yet, the child that is smart enough to ask the question is also smart enough to know they aren’t getting the whole story. It’s the look of suspicion on Claire’s face. The same look of suspicion I get when God “answers” my questions. The look that says “this doesn’t sound totally right.” We know enough to know we aren’t getting the whole story but we don’t know enough to fully understand if we did get the whole explanation. In fact the full explanation would probably sound just as far fetched as the “dumbed down” version.
So what saves us from walking away in anger? From calling the whole system a lie and deciding we want nothing to with it anymore? It’s the same reason Claire accepted my answer…trust and love. I love Claire. I’m not going to lie to her. How does she know this? Because she knows me.We spend time together.
Are you getting it? God loves me. He knows me. We spend time together He wants me to grow in wisdom and knowledge. So he’s going to help me do that the best way he can; by giving me the information I can comprehend in the time I can comprehend it. And I in turn have to trust in his love for me. When my brain picks up on the inconsistencies in his explanation I don’t lose heart. This is my father and he loves me. Someday I’ll be able to understand the whole story.
For now, I see through a glass darkly; and some things I might not see until the day I am face to face with Jesus. But I’m not going to be afraid. I can’t see. But he can. And so I’ll keep asking my questions. I’ll also keep jumping the waves holding tightly to the one who split the sea from the sky. He will quiet me with his love and rejoice over me with his song. And we’ll keep going. Until the day we are face to face.