It’s his second day of school, and as we talk it over in the car on the way home, he’s genuinely perplexed. During science class the teacher asked the class something along the lines of where animals come from. My nearly 7-year-old son said “God made them,” though only loud enough for the kids sitting next to him to hear. “I don’t believe in God,” replied his neighbor, a new friend with whom he’d spent all of recess playing. The kid he liked the most out of all the kids in his class.
My son knows that there are many faiths, that everyone doesn’t believe in the God of the Bible. This comes up routinely in conversations. We’re studying the ancient world in history this year- covering the sun god Ra and the host of other gods they worshiped. He gets that there are and have always been many religions, even though we believe only one God is real. Only Jesus was perfect, and only Jesus came back to life after dying, thereby paying for the sins of the world.This is truth – but not everyone knows it or believes it.
But this situation strikes him as different, because it’s his friend. “Mom, how can I be friends with someone who doesn’t believe in God?” He feels some kind of interior tearing there already, right at the front end of this friendship. Because he knows that God is at the core of our life, that His existence and His continual presence are the platform upon which we live. He knows that this Love is the central Love of our lives. And to him, it feels impossible to build a relationship with someone to whom that intimacy is foreign.
I tell him that of course he can be friends with someone who doesn’t believe in God. That his dad and I are friends with many people who don’t believe in God, or who believe in different gods. Everyone approaches life differently, I tell him, and just like he’s friends with people who like basketball when he likes soccer, he can be friends with non-God-followers when he is a God-follower. And this is true… Partly. Because the whole truth is that we tend to grow closest to those who share our deepest intimacies, our most strongly held beliefs. This is true for all of humanity, not just for Christians. If I love Jesus most in life, my soul is probably going to resonant most deeply with those whose souls also adore Him. It’s how we’re wired.
He’s six, though, and right now that’s not the most important thing for him to know. The thing that’s most important to know is that friendship with all sorts – the Jesus-loving types and the not-Jesus-loving types – is normal, good and right. There is no bubble of the likeminded, nor should there be. It’s not the way our Lord lived when he walked the earth, and it’s not the way He wants us to live either.
And I’m thankful. For the real faith that resides in my young son’s soul. He loves Jesus really and truly, in his six-year-old way. And thankful too for this dynamic, early though it came, and what it evoked in my son’s heart. The tension in my his soul that speaks of the awkward reality that we all walk out – our dual residence on earth and in heaven, where our true citizenship lies. Thankful for real experiences, carefully paced out, of engaging with the world in real ways. May they continue to refine his soul, returning him always to the Father for direction, and cultivating in him an ever-deepening faith in Jesus and love for all those He made.
Originally published October, 2012