I am one of those moms. The moms who side with the teacher.
My daughter made it all the way through elementary school without any problems. She is an excellent student and she loves school. Kindergarten through 5th grade was a breeze; I became friends with every one of her teachers. We’re sushi buddies, Facebook friends and concert goers. And then we entered 6th grade. Right away my daughter began enjoying her new teacher, and I wasn’t surprised because she’s liked every teacher she’s ever had. If she was happy, I was happy.
Then one day she came home, looking somewhat confused.
“Mama, my teacher said that the story of Jonah and the whale is impossible.”
I was thankful that she waited until after I swallowed my iced tea because it would’ve come shooting out of my mouth. I asked how the topic came up in the classroom, and she told me, “we’re learning about mythology.”
“What else did your teacher say about it?”
“Well, he also said that we weren’t created by some God, but that we were made from one molecule and we evolved. He said that God is a part of mythology.”
Whoa whoa whoa….someone get the principal on the phone. I was so angry at the teacher for saying something like this to his entire classroom of 11 year old kids.
I had two options:
1) Get angry and let my daughter know I'm angry.
2) See this an opportunity to discover her own convictions.
Although the first option was the natural and most appealing at the time, I knew it wasn't the right choice. By getting angry I would only be teaching my daughter that we should get angry with anyone who doesn't agree with our beliefs. Talk about setting her up for severe disappointment because the truth is that she will encounter people like her teacher throughout her lifetime.
So I began our conversation with this: "what do you think to be true?" She bravely gave me an honest answer, "well, some of the stuff in the bible does seem to be, uh, a little farfetched." ("Farfetched," huh? That was definitely a new word from my 11 year old's mouth...wonder where it came from?)
I felt myself beginning to pray before I even realized what I was doing. I needed wisdom and I needed God to use His words because I was pretty sure I would mess it up with words of my own. My daughter and I spent the next hour dissecting God's word and talking about her convictions, not mine.
Here's some practicals for when this happens:
1) don't get angry. All throughout our lives our faith will be challenged. I'm sure you can think of many instances in which you've encountered a similar situation and there you are, left to come up with answers and defend your beliefs. Anger never helps. It merely translates that if the other person disagrees, we are prepared to enter battle. And that is not something we want to teach our children.
2) Ask for an honest answer, and be loving when you receive it. My daughter was very honest with me as she shared with me some areas of the bible that were difficult for her to grasp. If we're being honest, there's been a time or two when I've read something and thought, "really?" We all know whose whispers those are in our ears. Doubt = the enemy. He wants us to doubt the validity of God's word. But the truth is that when we have questions, it means that our hearts and our minds are trying to understand God's word and that is never a bad thing! Questions create curiosity and curiosity creates seeking answers, which leads us to deeper studies in God's word. So, amen! Bring on the questions!
3) When have you seen God work? This was my favorite part of our conversation. I asked my daughter about the times she knew that God was working in her life. "How have you seen God?" Oh man, she came up with an astounding list. Even down to the night her hamster escaped from its cage (sneaky little thing); it had been missing all day long - nobody could find this Houdini of rodents. When I tucked her in that night, we prayed that the hamster would make its way home. Wouldn't you know it - not even 2 seconds after praying, that hamster was just sitting out in the middle of the hallway! Just sitting there like, "oh hey, I've been here the whole time." To my daughter, that was proof of God listening to our prayers. When your child comes to you with doubt, have him/her recall all the ways they have seen God work in their lives or the lives of others.
4) Pray. God's wisdom is incredible. And He will gladly pour it onto you. All we have to do is ask for it. Don't enter into a conversation like this with your child (or any person seeking answers) without first going to God in prayer.
By the end of our conversation, my daughter realized that her convictions about God were hers. Not mine, not our pastor's, not her friends. Hers. And now she is ready to encounter more people like her teacher because she knows that all she needs to do is go back to God.
I ended our conversation with this little bitty for her to think about..."it takes more faith to believe in nothing than to believe in something." She smiled and said, "he doesn't even realize how faithful he really is."
(This article was originally written by Jennifer Osler and featured on GirlfriendsPray.org)