How do I talk about God to my kids?
This interview is from A Kids Book About: The Podcast, with host Matthew Winner and author of A Kids Book About God, Paul J. Pastor. It has been lightly edited for clarity.
What is God?
Well, isn't that a big question? And, as we all know, different people will say really different things about this.
Our conversation today is not about religion, but it is about believing. It’s not about sermons or services, but it is about questions and seeking answers, even if you might never really know the answers.
I expect some of the people listening to this podcast right now have really different ideas about God. Some of the listeners today might be atheists—people who don't believe in God at all. Some might be really religious and really specific about what that's going to mean and have thoughts that are really different than mine and just express those in different ways.
And my hope would be that if we spent time together, we could find something to talk about that is just amazing, like the woods here, or like our own brains that are such an incredible thing. And as we encounter that, my hope would be that we'd be able to move from a place of disagreement or pointing at each other and saying you are wrong and move into a shared place of wonder.
The question I’d like you to consider throughout today’s episode is, What do you think of when you hear the word “God”?
How I think about it is, along with many people, I think of God as the One or the thing who made everything and also what everything is made off. And both of those things are really important for me.
First, God to me is a real person; a somebody, not just something. But also that somebody is different than all the other somebodies in the whole world, because God and only God, I believe, is the one who gives existence to the whole universe.
One really old way of thinking about it says that God is the one in whom we live and move and have our being.
People have different names for God. God means different things or exists in different ways for different people. In this way, God is a bit mysterious, right?
I love science. And one of my favorite places in the whole world is this scientific laboratory in Illinois called Fermilab. I don't know if you've ever heard of it, but it's this amazing particle accelerator, which there's like two of them in the whole world. There's one in Switzerland, I believe. And there's one in Illinois.
I've toured this place several times and you get to talk with some of the scientists and ask them about the experiments that they're doing. And, you know, they're talking about these little things called quarks and muons and like all these weird names that sort of work. They tell me, like Legos a little bit. That all of reality is built out of these little tiny things.
But what is most amazing about this is that even with the most powerful brains and equipment in the whole world, they are working with this sense of mystery and wonder, they're asking questions: How does our existence work? Why are we here? What's wrong, really going on?
And even though they're doing this incredible science, they're all kind of walking right up to the edge of this bigger mystery and this bigger question that's behind everything.
And I think that mystery in that question is best called God.
I have no doubt that you are full of many beautiful questions. The grownup you live with may also be filled with many beautiful questions. Do you ever share those questions you have with your grownup? The things you wonder? The mysteries you’re pondering? Do you ever ask what questions your grownup is thinking about?
When I was a kid, like many of us, my family is a good example of how our questions and beliefs can really change and grow. When I was really little, we didn't talk about God very much at all in my family. It wasn't something that was really done or felt very important. I had lots of questions and like most kids just really wondered [about] all of these big things going on, but it just didn't really feel like something we talked about.
And then when I was about, in first grade or so that changed in a really good way. My parents began to talk with each other and with other people about God and it became an important part of our family. And all of a sudden I saw sort of, uh, the cool and interesting things that happen when you start out not really feeling like it's okay to talk about this and then all of a sudden spiritual conversations are part of your life. And that felt really good to me.
Your family may have spiritual practices that are different from your friends or neighbors. They might involve going to a place of worship, or spending time in the service of your community, or being immersed in nature and in our connection with the earth. You may also grow to develop different beliefs from your family or your community.
Of course! It's often really healthy, not just possible, but really healthy. And the reason for that is because it means we've really thought about it. Speaking as a dad, you know, I've got three kids, 11, 9, and 7. And so they're at that phase where they're asking all the questions all the time and, and kids are spiritually curious.
They just want to know about things and grownups are too, but kids are really spiritually curious. And, speaking honestly, I would rather, my kids asked the really hard, really important questions—even if they came to some different conclusions than I have personally, rather than not think about them at all and just accept whatever someone else says without thinking about it. And so if you end up having a different set of beliefs from your parents, yeah, that can be stressful. That can cause conflict. You need to talk about those things and be honest and remember that no matter what you end up believing love is still possible between you.
That's all really important. And it's a terrible thing when relationships start breaking down because of these questions, but I think it shows that you actually really care about these questions because it's a more difficult thing to wrestle and then come to a new conclusion for you than it is to simply accept an answer that's been given to you and move on.
And so whatever you end up believing, those questions in that wrestling are very important and they show that you care about those things.
I hope that today’s conversation filled you with questions. And I hope those questions lead to more questions. And some conversations. And, especially, some wonder.
We don't have to figure this stuff all out on our own, even though there are a lot of frustrating or incomplete or even harmful thoughts about God that float around out there. I personally think those are actually the tiny minority compared to the helpful and profound and amazing thoughts about God that other people are sharing too.
People have been asking these questions for tens of thousands of years. And part of the fun of being a person is getting to know and learn and wrestle with these ideas for the rest of your life. You're not going to stop growing. You're not going to stop learning. And even when you find the answer that feels like it fits that, answer that. And if it's real, it's going to just open like a flower and bloom for the rest of your life.
And so my encouragement is to never stop seeking that and to always work, to live with really open eyes and a really open heart, cause those, I think, are just exactly how God wants us to be. And, it's a pretty profound way to live.
Each week on A Kids Book About: The Podcast, we talk about the big things going on in your world with a different author from our A Kids Book About series. This week we have Paul J. Pastor, the author of A Kids Book About God.