Twenty-seven years ago, on the day after Christmas, my son was born. Suddenly there was no more peaceful staring at the Christmas tree for me, it was time to go to the hospital. When I arrived, I was already well into the birth process, too late to use the whirlpool bath in my room, it was time to start pushing. So, I did. For a long, long, time; for F-I-V-E hours, in-fact. Kind nurse Molly had me in every position she could think of, but nothing seemed to move the process along. The doctor did very painful things to try to get the baby to progress. I was thinking it was time for something drastic, but when I mentioned this to the doctor, she informed me that the only way this baby was coming out was if I pushed him out. Molly lightened the mood by asking: “Did you bring any music?” I had, but in the rush, I’d forgotten all about the mixed tapes I’d made for the occasion. She picked a cassette off the pile and put it in the player. I don’t remember hearing a thing.
Finally, the baby moved in earnest. As he was laid on my chest Molly said “Listen!” We all stopped and heard a choir singing “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given…”
The boy with this auspicious beginning continued to surprise me as he grew up. His kindergarten teacher commented that he made a coloring book of the Disney movie “Prince of Egypt” and was sharing the story with everyone. At Christmas, he shared the story of Jesus birth with his classmates. One Saturday when he was twelve, I was working on my sermon and he came to offer me one he’d worked up called: Why you should believe in God.
In middle school things changed. He was the kid who didn’t want to be Confirmed. We made a deal, he’d go through the three years of training (yes, I was that pastor) but he didn’t have to publicly affirm a faith he didn’t confess.
He went off to college and majored in Biomolecular Biochemistry. Once when he was leaving the science building a student from another discipline accosted him saying he was going to hell for being a scientist. Every now and then, my son sent me video links to debates between Richard Dawkins and various faith leaders. After watching each one, we would discuss the arguments honestly. Since Dawkins tended to attack the conservative and evangelical side of Christianity, I found myself saying: “But that’s not us – you know that’s not us!” My son agreed, and added “that doesn’t matter Mom, that’s what’s out there, that’s what people believe Christianity is.”
We still have good discussions, often about justice and politics. (Don’t tell him, but he holds a very Lutheran understanding of how people should be treated). And he remains very irritated by a version of Christianity that does not respect science and does not take the Corona virus seriously. He is now a PhD student in Immunology and has seen the virus up close.
So, you see, this is personal. I know that God loves my son, and everyone like him. God doesn’t turn away from those who doubt. God understands. I want to help Christians bridge the gap between themselves and the rest of the world. The resources offered on this website work toward this goal. My son’s questions and doubts have stretched my faith in ways that reveal the limits of my understanding. I have found that humility is a good place for a conversation to start. Who makes this work personal for you? How will you start the conversation?
May the one called “wonderful counselor” and “prince of peace” guide our hearts and give us the words we need.