Caryn’s 23 things – and then some

Racing into Library 2.0 with LOL and others

A letter to two kids

I have a 7-year-old godchild, who has a 9-year-old sibling.  The older one has started wondering about God, death, and related subjects, so I wrote them a letter.  I’ll copy it here, and if anyone has comments or questions, they can ask.

Dear Kids –

This letter is partly to address questions [the older one] has been having about God, death, humans’ purpose in living, and so on.  I don’t know if [my godchild] is interested in these questions or not, but since te’s my godchild, it’s my job to talk to tir about them anyway, so I’m sending this to both of you.

These are often referred to as “The Big Questions,” because people have been wondering about them for as long as we’ve been people.  Frustratingly, there aren’t any cut-and-dried answers; I think it’s because God gave us brains, and wants us to use them to keep thinking, instead of knowing the answers and not needing to ponder them any more.

You’ll meet a lot of people who believe they do have the answers, and you’re related to some of them.  [Some relatives] are what is called “Fundamentalist Christians,” and they believe that the Bible is factually and literally correct in all details.  This can be a very tempting point of view, because it’s very comforting to have The Answer to these questions.  However, other people (including me) believe that the Bible is not so much a list of facts, but an aid to thinking about God and related subjects.

Your [other relatives] also believe they have the answers: they believe that there is no God, and that when we die, we’re dead, and that’s all there is to it.  Some people, though (again, including me), find that impossible to believe, because they seem to see God in all of creation.

I’m somewhat handicapped in talking about God, etc., in that I don’t want to talk you into believing my set of answers.  It’s much easier to talk about anything if you believe not only that you’re right, but that anyone who believes differently is wrong.  However, while I think I’m at least partly right, I also think other people are at least partly right, too.  Whenever I say anything about God, please keep in mind that this is how I see the subject, and pretty much everything I say is open to question and discussion.

There’s an old story called “The Blind Men and the Elephant.”  [Older kid], you said you don’t want stories, but The Answer.  Since I’ve explained a little bit of why I’m not offering you The Answer, though, maybe you’ll agree to read this poem, based on the much older story: <http://godloveseveryone.letterfly.h4ab.net/elephant/>.

I expect you can see why I asked you to read that.  One person has hold of the trunk, someone else has hold of the tail or the leg, and since they’re blind, they can’t see the whole elephant at once.  Obviously, we can see, and we can comprehend the whole of an elephant.  But God is so huge, there’s no way we can get outside of God for perspective, and see all of God at once.  As I see it, God contains everything and everyone, whether they’re on this planet or billions of light-years away; whether they’re the size of people, or elephants, or atoms, or suns.  We don’t have the ability to comprehend a being who can create and keep track of all of that, so we tend to cut the question down to things we can handle.  That’s ok, as far as it goes, because this is how God made us, and God understands that we have this kind of thought processes.  The big mistake, in my opinion, comes from each of us thinking that “since I’m right, everyone else has to be wrong.”  But I think that people with very different ideas about God can all be right – God might be in some ways like a tree trunk, AND like a rope, AND like a wall, and so on.

This is kind of a long letter, and although I’ve tried to make it as non-confusing as possible, I don’t know if I’ve managed it.  One very good way to start thinking about God is to go ahead and read the Bible.  Most people don’t start at the beginning and read all the way through to the end, like you do with most books.  It seems to work better to break it up into small pieces that are easier to think about.  And there is great value in learning and memorizing Bible verses.  I’d already said that I was going to start giving [my godchild] Bible verses to memorize, so I’ll give you one you’ve almost certainly already heard:
1 John 4:8:  He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. (King James version)
        The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. (New American Standard Bible)

This opens a whole new can of worms, because there are a lot of translations of the Bible.  It didn’t start off in English, but in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek.  So it needs to be translated, and as English changes, it needs to be re-translated so that the meaning stays clear.  When you’re memorizing Bible verses, it’s a good idea to memorize the King James version, because that’s a version that most people agree is accurate.  But as you can see, it uses a lot of words we don’t use any more, so to make sure you understand the verse, you might want to look it up in another version.  Your parents may have some different versions of the Bible which you can compare; I usually go to <http://www.bible.com>, which offers a lot of different translations.  If you can, you should also memorize the citation (that’s the 1 John 4:8 part), so you can find it again when you want it.  That’s not as important now as it used to be, though, because now we can go to places like Bible.com and look up a verse if we don’t remember where it was.

Thank you for staying with me through this whole letter, if I haven’t lost you.  Please talk to your parents about any of this that you don’t understand, or any other questions it makes you think of.  And of course, please ask me!  I love talking about God, and Heaven, and why people are here, and all of that – I just don’t usually do it unless people ask me to.

August 19, 2007 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , ,

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