We took a road trip this summer, South Dakota to the Black Hills. We — my son, daughter and myself — were driving through the mountains and forest on a winding road. If you have been to this area you know there are huge boulders, wildlife, aspen and wildflowers. It is stunning. My son and I had just finished a hike and I don’t remember the conversation preceding but I suddenly thought to myself, how can any human feel there isn’t something greater than us creating all of this. I mentioned this out loud, “I don’t understand how people resist believe there is something so much bigger than us.”
My son immediately joined in the conversation. He started talking about the moon and tides, the perfect distance of the sun and moon and how it all works. “Like...how could this all be a coincidence and not a higher power? Whether it is Mother Nature, God, a universal energy, there is something magnificent and beyond us that we connect with. Our emotions react to the natural beauty of the world.”
I almost ran off the road! I was just in awe my son started chattering on about such things. He is not a talkative teen and I would call him an introvert. His group of friends is probably the most important thing is his life right now, followed by football. He is all teenage boy, full of testosterone. When the opportunity presented itself to have a conversation about nature, ourselves, and our emotional connections, I got excited and silently thought, “Yay! Let’s talk God!”
Years ago when my daughter was much younger, she started looking at her arms and hands and became in awe of “Where do we come from, like, aren’t we amazing how our bodies work? And how does my brain work to learn things and feel?” I remember starting a conversation about our physical and spiritual beings, our bodies and our souls. Another example of, “Yay! Let’s talk God!”
There are times when my teenagers say things, reveal attitudes, and are just all-around negative that worry me. I get fearful for their happiness, well-being, and confidence. Are my children turning into negative, sad adults?
It is hard to remember that as they grow into young adults, they will have horrible adult days just like I do. However, as young adults there aren’t the normal cures for the toddler bad days. We teach them to say “I’m sorry” or to say the prayers they have rehearsed and learned. But as we all know, these are not immediate cures for anxiety, sadness, or anger. As our children grow up they begin to have days that are truly negative, discontent, and mentally isolating…adult stresses and frustrations. They don’t want to hear me suggest saying a prayer, tell them they are never alone, or “please, let’s talk about it.” They slam their door. They go silent. They isolate. This creates so much fear in a parent. Fear that can’t be explained until you feel it for someone you love. These are the type of days that are literally just hard to get through. We can teach religion to our children but the freedom in a spiritual connection is another ballgame. Whether we are Christian, Islam, Jewish, Hindu, any denomination or path, a spiritual connection takes practice and is personal. I can’t force or teach my children to have this relationship or make them understand the freedom from pain it can bring. The only thing I know to do is tell and show them my experience.
The problem I find is timing. When do I explain this? When do I tell them or show them? My own fears and anxieties get in my way. I panic and then the timing is horrible! My mind starts racing, “They have to understand this before they are driving, before they are introduced to drugs or alcohol, before they are around horrible influences! Now, now, now, before it’s too late!”
The solution that has been presented to me is this; I cannot force it or schedule it. What I can do is be ready and aware. I cannot give something that I do not have. I practice each day with prayer that I am ready and able to see what is needed of me. When my children present the opportunity to discuss the awe of nature, or supernatural wonderful things, or open up about their personal fears, I can be ready and present to share what I have.
I have been reminded by wise friends during these times when I fear and pray for my children, my children have their God looking out for them just as I have mine. They have grace surrounding them even when they don’t know it, just as I have throughout my journey. This comforts me for the time in between the opportunities. Until my next chance to, “Yay! Let’s talk God!”