Mitali Perkins, award-winning author of books for young readers, shares a heartbreaking adolescent experience and losing her way spiritually:
“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.”
In conversations with young people about difficult topics…
- Let them think, speculate, imagine. Resist the impulse to answer their questions for them.
- Mirror back their thoughts to them so that they can hear themselves and continue their conversations with you.
- Don’t minimize the complexity of the issues.
- 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
Mitali 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