The ‘Why’ questions used to be cute. Well to a point, if I’m totally honest. I wasn’t very good with the ‘why’ response to my tenth answer on questions about the universe and other complicated things. In those discussions I felt as if I was slipping on a downward spiral into a pit of futility. There’s always a direct correlation between the lack of meaning in the questions from my children and my answers, and at the bottom of that pit lies a) I dunno or b) ‘cos I said so!
But we forgive them the asking because they are just so jolly cute when they’re three. And anyway, when they are very little they are not questioning our knowledge, only trying to figure it all out. At that age they trust us completely to catch them when they jump off those high ledges.
But as they grow, they realise we are not as strong or clever as they thought we were.
Nowadays I might make a suggestion such as “Will you tidy your room,” and if met with a ‘why?!’ I’m either in immediate fight or flight mode. In other words I either a) explode – I told you a million times already why!! or b) run away – I give up, I can’t be bothered to explain, again. Both are bad parenting tips, btw. Here listen to me kids, sometimes it’s better not to ask why and just be like Nike.
It’s not that I don’t enjoy teaching my kids new things, I love that actually. I delight in the wonder they find in discovering and growing in understanding of the world around them. I believe it’s also necessary and good to train them up to become wise and thoughtful young people.
The thing about the ‘why?’ question is that it goes so much deeper than the words sometimes, it goes to the heart. It can mean that there is a lack of obedience or a lack of trust. So if I have explained before about why too much sitting around watching tv is not a good thing, then the next time I ask for it to be switched off, the ‘why’ question is like poking a lion with a short stick. That’s a rebellious and a deliberately forgetful ‘why’. Then there are some situations that are easy to explain to a young child but there are others that are a bit more complicated. If I ask them to do something urgently, the standing about asking ‘why’ implies a lack of trust in my judgement. (Get in the car quick because if you don’t we’ll be late and then Daddy will miss the train and then the job interview opportunity will be lost and then we won’t can’t pay the mortgage which means ….arrrgghhh -select your own bad language here- JUST GET IN).
I’m trying to teach my kids to ask whys that are wise. But I’m guilty of doing the same to God. I am so quick to ask why there is suffering and sadness and slow to trust His loving goodness and ultimate wisdom. It’s like saying I don’t trust that you know what you are doing, God. You said you are All Wise and Omnipotent but I’m not showing I believe it. And when he asks me to do something and I don’t, my lack of obedience is to my own detriment. I think I know better than Him – that somehow I’m wiser than Him!
I noticed a few times in the Bible when God asked people the ‘why’ question it wasn’t because He didn’t know the answers Himself but rather He was pointing to their hearts. When he asked Cain “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? He knew he had killed his brother, He was asking about the hatred and jealousy underneath. When He asked Abraham “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ He was highlighting her lack of belief in His promises for the future.
The ‘why’ I have heard Him speak to me a few times in response to loss is the one Jesus asked Mary in the garden: “Woman, why are you crying?” She didn’t understand, she couldn’t see the bigger picture. But it’s such a beautiful scene as all he did was call her by name and she recognised His voice. As his followers, we know His voice and like a shepherd He leads us to safety. We don’t have to trip along asking why we are walking along this path instead of that one. We only need to trust that He knows where those safe places are and follow obediently.
God is unlike us earthly parents, His mercies are new every morning. He knows how little faith we have and He steps into that gap Himself. We could choose to go our own direction and try and figure it out by ourselves thinking we know better. But to me that’s as silly as a sheep bossing the shepherd about or a lump of clay directing the potter how to make itself into a pot, or even a child raising a parent.
The comfort is that we are told, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” and also “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding.” We are not left to stumble around in the dark asking silly questions, we have direction and a clear path to walk. All He has asked of us is to be like trusting children that are willing to follow His loving guidance.
So as I teach my kids about trust and obedience and point them to the deeper spiritual truths that they represent, I realise that being a parent is teaching me so much about the father heart of God. And being His child I need so much reminding of those truths myself when I lack wisdom and constantly fall back into my own childish ways.