Last night as I sat on my bed, reading a book, my 15 year old came to kiss me goodnight and said ” I like God and stuff but does He really exist? I find it hard to believe that there is somebody called God”. She was looking at me straight in the face. I was on the spotlight, in the night just when I thought another day had gone by peacefully (when you have teens, everyday that goes in peace is a blessing) and here I was faced with a question like it was a matter of life and death. I tried brushing it away and pleaded to be left alone as this was my “Me-Time”. A pair of eyes looked back at me, ” I really need to discuss this with you now”. There was no way I was going to be let-off that easily. The question had been asked a month ago and I had hoped that I had given a satisfactory response but obviously not.
Sensing the urgency in her voice, I questioned, ” Do you believe there is a force beyond us that controls us?”, “Do you believe that there are some totally inexplicable things that happen in the world, that even science cannot explain?”. “That force is what we call God”.
” Great scientists like Einstein and leaders have believed in God. So normal people like us surely can, don’t you think?”. She looked at me, not fully convinced and continued, ” It’s difficult to pray when you don’t believe”.
As tired and sleepy as I felt, the mother in me couldn’t let her go to bed, so confused. I tried again, ” We live on hope. You may not believe in a certain image of God because you’ve never seen Him and that’s o.k.
But there’s a little voice inside you which tells you right from wrong. Some call that ” Conscience”. Some say that’s God inside you. When you pray, you are speaking to God or maybe just to yourself. Think of prayer as a time of being quiet with yourself so that you can hear the voice inside, speak to you. When people set goals, when they believe that something will happen, when they hope for something, they pray to God hoping for it to happen successfully. Scientifically, they are saying it to themselves and pushing themselves to make it happen. Some of us find it easier speaking to God but if you can speak to yourself and stay on the right path and are able to keep your spirits up, that’s fine”. “The fear of God keeps many of us on the right path but if you think you can be good, be kind and be just without really referring to God, then it’s alright”.
Having been brought up in a family where religion was important and prayer was a holy discipline, I had never felt the need to question. A conversation with God had been natural at day-break and at dusk. We had not been forced to pray or to believe but had imbibed by watching the elders. I had followed the same rules in my own home, religious discipline and spirituality went hand in hand. I had never forced my children to worship God but the children seemed to do just as we did when we were children, “Follow the elders”, until this moment.
While I had answered her questions to the best of my ability, I am not sure if I had quelled her thirst to know. It’s strange how in a moment children can challenge the entire foundation you painstakingly laid, with such innocence, that it’s frightful especially in the present day. I knew there would be many questions that would still be brewing in the teenage mind. I also knew that some questions were best left to life and time to answer. Until they did, I could only hope and pray, that our values and teachings would guide her and these questions would not torment her.
Like any mother who is totally aware how each word spoken could haunt her in future, if not carefully explained, I looked at her and said ” Some people need to have the fear of God and to feel the love of God to keep them on the right track and to give them the strength to go on. If you can get that strength from within you, then it’s fine”.
“How do I know if what I am doing is right?”, she quipped.
“When you think of doing something, if you can tell your parents about it without any fear or shame, then what you are doing is right”. Ask yourself before you do it “Is this something that I can talk about, to my parents? If the answer is yes, then it’s probably the right thing to do but if the answer is no, then you know you mustn’t do it”.
Kissing me goodnight she said “Mamma, I know it’s late and you must be exhausted. Love you. Good Night”.
As I turned off the lights, I prayed that God would show her the way and answer the questions that I had left unanswered and protect her during her quest for answers.
The next morning, when the topic did not come up, very hesitantly, I approached it again and she gave me a blank stare. For a moment it seemed like I had been dreaming it all up.
“Did you say something about believing in God, last night?”, I asked matter-of-factly and quickly I added “Or maybe I was dreaming?”. Fortunately, I did get an answer. One that was much better than I had expected. ” It wasn’t a dream Ma. But don’t freak out. I do believe in a super-power but it’s just that I’m not sure if I believe in God” she replied reassuringly. Before I could answer, she continued, ” Miss Hurford, our English teacher said she wasn’t religious either. She said she was spiritual…”.
“It was a school thing and nothing else!”, relief swept over me. Looking on the positive side, I was happy that she had turned to me when confused. That in itself deserved rejoicing.
Over the years, I have noticed that children have an uncanny ability to pop a question just when one has turned the brain switch off and called it a day. In situations like these, one is forced to think on one’s feet and say the right things because the last thing you want, is to send the wrong message to impressionable minds. I guess, with children around, there’s never a time you can actually call it a day :).
If you’ve had a similar experience, do share it? Would love to hear of it. I’m sure we could all learn by sharing experiences.
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