With the vast majority of our family being Christians, it has been something of a struggle to help my children to form their own beliefs about existence and God without religion taking over. But somehow, I’ve done it.
My son recently received his first children’s Bible from our aunt & uncle for his 7th birthday. I know my father would have gotten him one first had I not explicitly told him I didn’t want him to take my children with him to church because I wanted to teach them about God in a different way. It’s no secret that my elders don’t understand, and likely don’t agree with, the way I have decided to raise my children. Outside of the school system. Outside of the church. Inside Mila’s Universe. But they have respected and supported it, for the most part. And for that, I am grateful.
My son is an avid reader. In just one day, he’s made quite a dent, getting to the 22nd passage in the book of Numbers. He asked if I wanted to read it with him, and of course I said yes. So I sat with him at our glass dining room table, watching him eagerly devour bible stories that took him on multiple journeys in just one sitting. Despite what my aunt & uncle may think, I am pleased to see him this taken with a story, even a religious one.
He comes to Exodus and I ask him what’s going on in the story. He tells me that God is punishing the people for worshipping other gods. “What do you think about that?” I ask, curiously. “Well, I don’t think anything about it. It’s not my story.” he says. “So you don’t think it’s good or bad? It just is what it is?” I press on, careful not to assume. “Yeah.” he says. And I know I understood him because if I hadn’t, he would have corrected me. I smile with satisfaction before saying “It’s good to take in things from an objective standpoint”. I leave him to his reading and walk away feeling accomplished.
I never set out to shelter my children from Christianity or the Bible. I did, however make sure the way they were introduced to ideas about God was in a setting that didn’t force them to believe certain things out of fear or pressure from family members and society. I always wanted them to have the option to choose what resonated with them. My son being able to read on his own and having the capabilities to form his own thoughts, beliefs and opinions is reflected in how he interacts with his bible. And I love that.
He was given a tool from his elders, but he made the decision to start learning about God in the realm of a religion. He started reading it all on his own. A choice I was never given as a child. This often made me feel guilty for questioning the way scripture was presented to me and being curious about spirituality outside of Christianity. I never wanted my children to be haunted with the fear that I was. At least not because of me and the way I chose to introduce them to the concept of God. I’m happy to be able to guide and explain things to him, but know how to give him the space to engage with this kind of text with autonomy.
As we dive deeper into summer, the excitement and heat surrounds all of us in several different ways. I see it radiating around my son and it brings me so much joy. I’m proud to see the passion within my son as he learns more about God in this context. And I’m proud of myself for facilitating an environment that allowed him to do so with freedom.