A little girl visited my daughter a few nights ago. They’re best friends. She claims to be an atheist but I’m confused about how anyone younger than sixteen knows if there is a God or not for sure. I remember when I was that age and thought I knew though. It must be possible to have that strong of a feeling to the contrary.
We spent the evening together having a rare teen-adult connection during conversation where she blurted out that her parents were not very kind to her. She recounted some stories that made me hurt for her and, even if only remembered wrongly, I still recognized as life-shaping. This is a girl, I kept thinking, that will turn into a woman who questions everything about the relationships she is in. She will wonder if, when he says he loves her, if he really does. She will second-guess her best friends (as she already does) and she will wonder if there is anyone who finds worth in her, even as she painstakingly dresses for another date or business meeting.
And this is a girl who can’t believe in God. She could never believe in a Father in Heaven who loves her because she doesn’t even believe that her parents do.
I have thought about this for days. I mull it over as one of the strangest but truest thoughts I’ve had in a while. The question seems so obvious to me and yet so vague: Does our relationship and belief in a Heavenly Father have anything to do with our dysfunctional or trusting relationships with our own earthly parents? And, regardless of whether or not those perceptions of our relationships are actually true or not, did it shape the way we formed our bond with God?
Does the man who spends his childhood with a father who is never home believe there is a God but that He doesn’t really participate in the daily lives of his children? Does the woman who spent her childhood lost in the sea of children of a large family grow up to think that God loves her but never notices the things she does? Does the child who is criticized often believe that they will never be good enough to go to heaven?
I’m starting to think a lot about my own parents these days and my perception of them.