Finding their own way back to God

Mitali Perkins, award-winning author of books for young readers, shares a heartbreaking adolescent experience and losing her way spiritually:

way in world map“I was raised in a Hindu home, where Dad taught his children that God was a divine spirit of love. Dad’s job as an engineer took us from port to port, so that by the time I was 11, we had lived in India, England, Ghana, Cameroon, Mexico, and the United States. No matter where we were posted, Dad led us in a daily practice of gratitude to God.

I believed in this good God until high school, when a friend was killed in a car accident involving a drunk driver. Clayton’s death opened my adolescent eyes to a world of suffering. What kind of God would allow this and then, according to Hinduism, reincarnate us into a painful world? I grieved for my friend and put my questions—and God—aside for the rest of high school.”

way back to GodIn conversations with young people about difficult topics…

  1. Let them think, speculate, imagine. Resist the impulse to answer their questions for them.
  2. Mirror back their thoughts to them so that they can hear themselves and continue their conversations with you.
  3. Don’t minimize the complexity of the issues.
  4. Aim for spiritual growth, not answers.

Trust that God will show the way to greater resolution of a young person’s confusion and upset as they remain open to allowing God’s various ways of communicating with them.

Time and space to pursue understanding

way to religious artMitali Perkins did remain open-minded. Here I’m paraphrasing part of her article, “When God Writes Your Life Story.” In her junior year of college, she went to Russia where she toured cemeteries, prisons, museums, and churches. At the Hermitage, an English-speaking museum official was taking her group from room to room. She was deep in thought as she looked at the many religious paintings.

As her group was leaving, the museum official pulled her aside and asked quietly what she was thinking about so deeply. “A loving God. Human suffering. How can both exist?”

He spoke briefly to her about being at an intersection of choice. She went away determined to read the original source material for those paintings, the New Testament. What she found there carried her to a deeper understanding of the heart of God, newfound faith, and eventually to represent and champion the marginalized child in her writings.

Tweetable: Let young adults speculate, imagine and think their way through spiritual questions. You may set them on one path in early childhood (could be a path of no religion) but give them freedom to approach God in their own style. Great example here. Click to Tweet    

Seek opportunities to experience awe with kids

awe inspiring fireworks“Awe is the feeling of being in the presence of something vast or beyond human scale, that transcends our current understanding of things,” according to Dacher Keltner. He leads UC Berkeley’s Social Interaction Lab and he helped Facebook create the recent additions of emoji’s to the Like feature.

When is the last time you felt awe?

For me, it was experiencing a whole sequence of events line up so that I was in the right place at the right time to be of assistance to someone. The sheer number of converging variables demanded an explanation beyond coincidence.

For Immanuel Kant: “Two things awe me most, the starry sky above me and the moral law within me.”

Michael Lerner says: “Nothing is more contagious than genuine love and genuine care. Nothing is more exhilarating than authentic awe and wonder.” He says that the universe produces a feeling of awe for him.

Goodness. Beauty. Truth.

Adults and children alike experience awe. We hold that in common. Feeling amazed by goodness, beauty or truth seems to be a universal human response. I ask myself, “Is awe one of the pathways God provides for humanity to experience God?  Could it be that feelings of awe are yet another attempt made by a loving God to connect with each of us? How can I provide awe-inspiring experiences for the children in my life?”

Ideas for kids

The second half of this article gives specific ideas of how families can experience awe.awe nature walk

Paula Scott, from her article here on awe, adds another idea, “High school teacher Julie Mann takes her students on ‘Awe Walks’ to connect with nature or art. When they write about these experiences and share them in the classroom, she says, kids who never talk in class or pay attention come to life. ‘It helps them feel less marginalized, with a sense that life is still good.’ She suggests journaling, collage, photography, drawing as ways for students to reflect about awe for time, space, amazing events and people.”

Click to Tweet: We call it goosebumps, spine-tingling, tears in our eyes amazement. Good ideas here to add more wonder to everyday life. Click to Tweet