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Prodigal faith questioning is common among children

June 18, 2004|by LISA PREJEAN

"Mommy, what does God look like?"My 5-year-old and I were taking an early morning walk. She was gazing up at the white, puffy clouds in the sky.

Her question is one I've considered from time to time. Since the Bible says that man is made in the image of God, does God, like man, have a mind, will and emotions? Does he have arms and legs?

I shared these musings with her and we were both quiet for a few moments, walking along, lost in thought.

For Christians, many of the answers can be found in the Bible.

As the sun broke away from the horizon, I remembered one of the most intriguing attributes of God.

"Did you know that in heaven there will be no need for the sun or the moon? The Bible says that God's glory will be so bright it will be the only light we'll need."


In the moments following, we talked about death, eternal life and forgiveness.

I don't think there's anything more amazing than to contemplate the great mysteries of life with a child.

Knowing how to begin a conversation about God with your child can be challenging, says James C. Wetherbe, a professor of information technology at Texas Tech University.

"You have to have some sense of your own faith," says Wetherbe, author of " Seeking God in the 21st Century."

Children need loving guidance on this exploration of faith.

"We tend to get too judgmental, impatient in letting people draw their own conclusions," Wetherbe says. "Expect your child to go through the prodigal stage. Be patient, not judgmental."

We shouldn't be alarmed when children begin to question their faith, he says, for "an unchallenged faith isn't a very strong faith."

Think of how Jesus taught. He often answered a question with another question.

You can use this technique with your child, Wetherbe suggests.

If a child asks, "Why can't we have total freedom?" You could answer, "Is a train more free on or off the tracks?"

A statement can sound like criticism, but a question may encourage discussion, Wetherbe says.

After hearing your child's response to the train question, you could explain that God knows that what we want is not always what's best for us.

Telling a story is another way to stimulate a child's interest in God. Children are especially intrigued by the parables Jesus taught. They may see things in a character's life that they couldn't before see in their own.

"I believe a lot of stories in the Bible were given to us as case studies," Wetherbe says.

Above all, be honest and be willing to admit that there are some things you just don't know.

Wetherbe says his faith didn't come easy because of his skeptical nature. He became highly motivated to understand and believe in God after his best friend died when they were only 18.

In the book, he metaphorically compares being connected to the Internet with a person's ability to be connected with God.

When you turn on a computer, you don't see the connection, but you know you are connected because information appears on your screen.

Likewise, when you are "connected" to God - through prayer and reading the Bible - he will provide the information you need to guide you through life.

For more information about the book, go to

Revelation is perhaps the most difficult book of the Bible to understand because it is full of prophecy, symbolism and imagery. However, parents may find it helpful to review the 21st chapter of Revelation, the last book of the New Testament. The descriptions of heaven found there may prove helpful when little ones ask probing questions.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at

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