Tough Questions

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Kids are something else, aren’t they? They just experience life so pure, so free. They fully engage and are not afraid to mess up. It makes sense that Jesus used them as the purest example of what it means to fully embrace following him. You see, kids grow up. In some ways, it is sad to see the transition to “maturity”. We can lose so much as we age. We can get stuck. We can become more afraid. We can forget others. We can become too cautious. We can stop dreaming. And most importantly we can stop asking questions. We specifically stop asking tough questions. I am not sure why this happens. Maybe we become too afraid of the answers. Or worse yet, we think we know the answers. Or even worse still, we don’t believe that there are any answers or at least we don’t think we will like their answers.

Kids have no problem asking the tough ones; it is just in them to do so. Jonah is the king of asking the tough questions. Often I am the one charged with answering them. Many times it is because he asks them when we are one on one. Other times I think Anna chooses to be silent out of curiosity; she want to hear how I will answer them. Like the time Jonah asked how babies get out of Mommies. Anna just sat there looking at me and smiling. She was especially enjoying it when he wouldn’t accept the first few blow-off answers I gave him. I finally had to be as direct as I could be while still protecting his innocence.  It is, of course, one of our favorite stories.

The past few months Jonah has been asking some doozies . In some ways, I wonder if it is Jesus asking questions through him. Kind of in the backward way that he did in many stories of the Bible. Like the time he was asking the disciples “who do people say that I am?” or when he kept asking Peter if Peter loved him. There have been several good ones that Jonah has asked recently. There are two that really stand out that I would like to share.

The first one came a few months ago when I was home with Jonah alone. I can’t remember where Anna was but we were having one of our “boy only days”.  Anna and I have been intentional about making these days be a common occurrence ever since Jonah was born. Because of this things tend to be pretty organic and comfortable between us. He knows that he can talk to me and that I will listen. He knows “dad knows a lot” so he isn’t afraid to ask me questions trusting I will do my best to answer him and if I don’t know the answer that we will discover it together. We had been playing and were having a quiet moment in the hallway of our house just sitting there on the hardwood floors in opposite doorways. He said to me, “Dad, why hasn’t Mommy had any more babies?” Man, that cut right to the deep of it. I sat there for a few seconds not knowing what to say but knowing from previous experience it was best to give it to him straight. He likes direct answers and is not satisfied by a distant or fluffy answer.

Oh if we could all ask each other these kinds of tough questions. I mean why don’t we? Actually, there has been many times throughout this journey that I desired just that. For someone to look me in the eye with love and ask me how I was doing, how I was feeling, what I was struggling with and not only that; but to really want to know the answer. You see, Jonah really wants to know the answer. Kids know when we are blowing them off. But it is like adults are just ok with some fluff answer or we don’t ask the questions because we expect to be blown off. Obviously, first we have to have the courage to ask the question and the person has to have the courage to answer honestly but that is a whole other topic

So I sat there and prayed a little prayer to help me answer my son honestly and directly.

I said to him, “Mommy and Daddy can’t have any more babies.” He sat there with a sad look and I knew what was coming next. He asked, “Why not?” So I swallowed hard and explained that Daddy’s body was broken. He then asked why that would matter. So then things got really interesting because I am not quite ready to have that “talk” with him yet. So I explained that he is a mixture of Mommy and Daddy. That Daddy gave Mommy part of himself so that he could be made and could be born. I explained that I can’t give Mommy what she needs to make a baby; that my body doesn’t work the way it is supposed to. I explained that we don’t know if Mommy and Daddy will have any more kids and that right now we think that he will be our only kid.

I could see his little, wonderful brain at work. I could tell he was working it out. He accepted the answer even though it wasn’t the answer he expected or wanted. It is not that he was okay with the answer. He was disappointed. He wants a sibling pretty badly and, in his own way is grieving that loss. However, he accepted my answer. I told him I was sorry and he told me that it was okay.

My little boy had just taught me some valuable lessons. He taught me that we need to ask the tough questions. But not only that, we also need to accept the answers. We don’t have to like them. We can certainly be disappointed – especially when the answer is different than we expect or want. I mean, this is huge. How would our relationships change if we did this? If we asked tough questions.  How would our faith change? We would certainly be much farther along in the journey.

The second question came a few days ago. I was getting Jonah ready for bed and something he thought off scared him deeply. This doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, he has a hard time letting the scary thought go and he gets really upset. It is quite troubling for me as I can’t always figure out how to calm him down and help him find peace. So I talked with him about what we should do when we are scared. We prayed to Jesus and asked Him to take away Jonah’s fear and to remove the things in his mind that was causing him to be afraid. I lay down beside him and began to sing to him.

He interrupted me with a question.  Don’t our deep questions tend to do that, to interrupt our lives? It is easy to not ask them when we are going through the motions of life, but then all the sudden things change and all we are left with is those deep, dark questions that we have tried to avoid at all costs. There are times in our lives that we smack right into these tough questions. So Jonah asks me one that completely stops me in my tracks. You see I was getting a little frustrated that he wasn’t calming down, but in that moment it was like Jesus had different plans and through the mouth of a child comes a question that Anna and I have been facing for quite some time now. Only I was charged with giving the answer. Jonah said to me, “Daddy, I prayed to Jesus about my scary thoughts and he didn’t take them away. Why didn’t Jesus take them away?” I mean isn’t this question at the very core of many of our stories?

So I said to Jonah, “Jesus is with you and he will protect you”. Jonah said back, “But Daddy, Jesus is just standing there; he is not taking away the scary things.” Man, you have no idea how many times these thoughts have come to me. I know that my circumstances could be different. I know that God could have given us more children. I know he could have saved each of lost babies and he could have prevented what has happened to my body. But he didn’t. Jonah was verbalizing what many of us struggle to bring to the surface. He was being really honest with his view of the moment. Frankly, I can totally see where he is coming from and I wanted to be like “yeah that is right he isn’t taking away your fear, what is up with that?” But instead I needed to guide my son through this faith rocking moment. It was my responsibility to be honest with my son about how God’s thoughts and ways are not ours.

So I said to him, “Well, son, you are right. Sometimes Jesus doesn’t take away the scary things we face. Sometimes Jesus doesn’t take us away from the hard, difficult things that we are facing. Sometimes Jesus just stands with us. But you know what? We can trust him. He won’t leave us. Sometimes he helps us to walk through the scary thing, to face it and move through it. And if bad things happen to us, Jesus will be there and he will help us through it. Jesus does this sometimes so that we can be stronger and be brave. Courage is not about not being afraid. It is about trusting it will be ok.”

Again Jonah accepted the answer even though I could tell he didn’t like it. Of course he didn’t, he wanted the scary thing to go away. He didn’t want to have to face it, walk through it. Who does? I began to sing again. Jonah was still a little unsure and so he asked me a second time the same question. Sometimes we ask the question again hoping that the answer has changed or that we heard it or understood it incorrectly. I explained again that Jesus was with him and he would help him. I also explained that his daddy was with him too and his daddy would protect him. Again even though he accepted that answer he still was unsure that he could trust Jesus to come through for him. Don’t we all struggle with this one? I explained that one of the names for Jesus in the Bible is the Lion of Judah. I asked him if lions were wimpy or weak. He said no that they are strong and powerful. I said “if a lion is standing beside you and is there to protect you, do you have to be afraid?” He said no and I agreed with him.

After three more songs he finally was asleep. I left the room a few moments later. The question had shaken me. First it shook me because it was the first time my son questioned God’s acting. I was afraid to answer him. Second it shook me because it is one of the core questions that I have deep in my soul. The question of: Jesus , why aren’t you doing anything? Thankfully, the question was asked by my son during came at a time in my journey where I have had more clarity on my suffering, pain, and loss. The words I said to Jonah that night were the very words I needed to hear. It was the very words that revitalized my trust in Jesus.

What I know now is that we need to be like children. We need to be brave to ask those depth-of-our soul type questions. They might be some of the most important questions that we ask. We only have one chance at this life; only one chance to live it to the fullest. We have to engage. We have to get real and stop avoiding the tough question. They will not just go away. Jesus can handle our questions; in fact He is waiting for us to offer them up to him. What questions do you need to ask?