LiveScience reports that children were asked whether various entities exist and how sure they were about their answers. “With respects to germs children typically said that they do exist and they were very sure of their existence,” said one of the study’s researchers. “That pattern was less frequent for God and other special beings.”
As the researchers speculated on why that is the case, one pointed out that “when we talk about things like germs or body organs, we talk in a very matter-of-fact fashion. We don’t say, ‘I believe in germs,’ we simply take it for granted that they exist.” Another researcher not associated with the study adds, “It’s intriguing to think that parents might talk differently to their children about science and spirituality.”
This study is a springboard to a wide-range of worthy debates, including the relationship between faith and science, God’s existence and what we teach our kids in school. But what struck me as a Christian is that others—especially my children—are impacted by how I talk about God. And that raises some important questions, like: How do I speak to my kids about God? How do I speak to my friends, neighbors and co-workers? And even more important, what do my actions say?
What we say and what we do
In my home, we not only say germs are real, we act like it. My husband and I not only tell our kids to wash their hands after using the bathroom, we show them how—and we wash our own hands after doing the same thing. It’s the same with washing off a cut or taking antibiotics.
I’m sure it’s the same in many homes. We don’t give much thought to doing these things—we just do them because we take for granted that germs are real things. When we take for granted something is true, our actions usually follow our knowledge. And that affects how our children believe what we tell them.
But what about God? How do we talk about him in our homes? In addition, do we show our kids how to act accordingly? More importantly, do we act accordingly? How about outside the home? How do we talk about God? Do our words and actions speak as one?
In other words, do our actions indicate we take for granted that God exists? Is it so ingrained in us that God is who he says and can do what he says that we live our lives in response to that knowledge almost without thinking?
A taking-for-granted-God-exists kind of life
Recently, I heard someone say that we too often treat faith like a noun and not a verb. Faith is not something we have but something we do. Faith is acting on the trust that God is and can do what he says.
Just who is God and what does he do? The Bible tells us he is abundantly good, all powerful and mindful of us. He loves us beyond imagination and knows us deeply and intimately. He’s compassionate, quick to strengthen us, righteous, trustworthy and unendingly faithful to keep his promises. He wants to be known and constantly reveals himself in awesome and glorious ways.
And he’s always near to all who call on him. He is present even when we can’t see, hear or feel him. When darkness comes and all hope seems gone, he's there—working death into life, evil into good. There's nothing he can’t overcome. He’s even blown death to smithereens by the death and resurrection of Jesus. And (here’s the kicker) if we humbly surrender to him and live out of his Spirit in us, we will experience a life so abundant we can’t contain it.
But do we really believe that? Do we act on that truth? If we do, we find out God really is who he says and does what he says--and that life he promises is ours. And that kind of life affects everyone around us.
So what steps can we take towards embracing this taking-for-granted-God-is-who-he-says-and-does-what-he-says life? Only God can give that life, but he's designed some ways we can cooperate with him. Get into the Word (which tells us who God is and how the world works) and show others how to read it, too. Pray alone and with and in front of others. Confess when you've missed the mark, and accept and give forgiveness. Constantly surrender to him your will, possessions and day-to-day lives. These and similar habits help to open us to God, who then transforms us to be more Jesus—who fully lived this taking-for-granted-God-exists life.
As we take these steps, we begin experiencing the abundant life he promises. And God’s life can’t help but pour out onto the people and world around us—including our children.
[This post will will also be published in Family News, a publication of Frazer Memorial United Methodist Church.]
(Image: Creation of the Sun and Moon by Michelangelo, face detail of God)