On Wednesday 2nd November I attended the “how to get your kids through church without them hating God” tour organised by Rob Parsons and ‘Care for the Family’.
Read part 1 here
Read part 2 here
In the final session of the evening, Rob spoke about the three disappointments that we need to prepare young people for in order that they don’t give up on their faith and walk away from God.
1) with others
2) with themselves
3) with God
the first two are self explanatory. sometimes we can be guilty of painting a false and idealistic picture of Christianity. None of us are perfect. People will let us down and we will let ourselves down. we won’t always get it right as following Christ is not easy. We need to help young people be ready for when the inevitable happens: when other Christians hurt them. Talk about grace. Talk about God’s grace for us and the grace we need to show others.
The 3rd one is more tricky. I compared a Q&A session with our youth fellowship earlier this year. The young people had the opportunity to ask a panel of ‘mature’ christians (2 of the YF leadership and 2 deacons) a series of awkward questions about faith. One of the questions was, “does God always answer prayer?”. Without hesitation, they all answered “yes” with “but sometimes not in the way we want”.
But that doesn’t cut it for me. And clearly it doesn’t for Rob Parsons either. When I prayed that my gran wouldn’t die of cancer, God didn’t deliver. How ever you wrap that up, the prayer wasn’t successful. God will disappoint young people.
Yes we can say, “well it wasn’t God’s will” or we can talk about “sin” and “spiritual forces” but at the end of the day young people will be disappointed when they pray for something and it doesn’t happen. Rob calls these the “what if not?” moments.
“What if they don’t get healed?”
“What if this never happens?”
I know I’m guilty of not preparing young people for this (and myself if I’m honest). Too often we paint a rose tinted picture of Christianity and its this that mostly destroys the faith of our young people.
It was a great night and it left me with so much to think about? What about you? Has any of these thoughts struck you/ challenged you?
- How to Get Your Kids Through Church Without Them Hating God: Part 1 (smoorns.wordpress.com)
I never understood the idea of a ‘God shaped hole’.
The idea that each human has a void that can only be filled by God.
Because what of the people who don’t have that hole? who are content in their lives? Who are neither atheist, nor theist?
I got a SNES (super nintendo entertainment system) when I was 8 or 9 I think. I remember the feeling of wanting it. And knowing that at Christmas, I would get it. There was, in a sense, a SNES shaped hole in me.
But that hole was not filled when I got the SNES. In fact, the whole originally appeared only after I played the SNES for the first time. It was after playing it, that I realised I NEEDED it.
So the idea of a God shaped hole is not a void in someone that needs to have filled (by God). The God shaped hole is created when someone experiences God.
Pete Rollins puts it like this:
“the believer, far from one having a God-shaped hole in his or her being that is now filled, is one who has a God-shaped hole formed in the aftermath of God, a hole that compels them to see after that which they already have”.
I can testify to the fact that I have a God-shaped hole. That I have experienced God and it affected me. It changed me. And I’m chasing after that experience again.
So rather than helping young people fill a god-shaped hole in them, part of my work should be about creating that void by finding ways for them to experience something of God.
Sometimes I doubt.
Sometimes I wonder where God is.
It’s not that I don’t believe He exists. I’ve had to many experiences of the mysterious and the miraculous to doubt the existence of God.
It’s just sometimes… He seems absent.
Sometimes I experience the absence of God.
I guess it’s like when you have a party or something and one of your friends doesn’t show up. You experience the absence of your friend. You feel the lack of presence of your friend.
Sometimes I feel that about God.
But then I attend a church service or youth event and it’s all about certainty. There doesn’t seem any room for doubt. Any room to discuss the experience of absence.
“God exists. Here’s what he’s saying. Here’s what you need to do. End”
We sing about this certainty. We hear about this certainty.
But sometimes I’m not certain. And that’s okay. It shouldn’t be a dirty secret.
Peter Rollins suggests that on the cross, Jesus experiences this absence of God. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
It’s not that Jesus thinks God doesn’t exist. It’s the fact he’s experiences the absence of God for the first time.
It makes me wonder what a service or youth event that embraced doubt and the experience of it would look like?
What would a worship song that embraced doubt and the experience of it sound like?
It’s only the start of the lent but I have still managed to break my promise. We had some family staying over during the weekend and I didn’t get a chance to get up early on Friday or Saturday to continue “my lent”. Hopefully that’s the last time it will happen.
Today, I was reading the account of the Fall of Jericho in Chapter 6 of Joshua. To be honest this is a passage that I struggle with. Maybe it’s because I didn’t live in that culture or I don’t fully understand what’s going on but in my western post modern mind I cannot understand why an entire city (men, women, children and animals) had to be slaughtered. There are many accounts like this in the Old Testament and I struggle with all of them.
What did these people do that was so bad that they deserved to be butchered? Most of us when we think of the holocaust are appauled that such an atrocity could take place but yet we, as Christians, accept this story of genocide. Im sure there are scholars out there who could tell me why it was justified but right now, I can’t find any reason.
There is a clear tension then inside of me when I read of these stories. Yes I can see the applicable lessons in this story:
God is faithful
Expect the unexpected with God
Trust God that he will do what he says he will do
but there is still the bitter aftertaste of genocide.
What then can I learn from this today?
To critically assess our faith. To not just accept things. To engage our brains when we read scripture.
I think we could all do with that.