It’s Fall. I’ve been reluctant to completely close my bedroom window, clinging to the birds’ chirps, and cold gusts of air. The fresh air wakes me and I pause before getting out of bed. I often encounter resistance to opening my door in the morning, wondering what I have to offer my children who are witnessing a government that hates, experiencing pain, and living in the struggle our family has to make ends meet. We have our good days, too. Days when breakfast is ready, the sun is out, and there’s space for a “visit to the park.”
I hear my two oldest children stirring. Nothing prepared me for the challenge of living my faith genuinely, in the presence of my children, and the desire for them to believe, too. Hebrews 11:1-2 states, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.2 This is what the ancients were commended for. (NLT)” I swing my legs out of bed, grabbing sweats, thinking about last night’s conversation with Luca. How do I parent a young man questioning his faith?
Last night when I picked up Luca from a friend’s house, he was standing at the gate, arms crossed. His friend stared at me. The mother of his friend said, “We’ve been having some deep theological conversations.” Instead of peppering him with questions, to ease my anxiety, I told myself, you don’t need more words now, but patience. Luca waved goodbye and we both got into the car.
I turned to him, “Luca, what did she mean? Would you be willing to share more?”
He answered, “Well, my friend’s youngest sister is really, really sick and she doesn’t understand why. She doesn’t know why God allows sickness, what will happen, and if God is really there or good at all.”
I glance his way, “Well, those are questions, that are not easy to ask or answer. Did you have any thoughts to offer her?”
“I think it is like I have to make my faith my own” Luca said. “I told her what I learned from Dad. It’s not God’s will, but we live in a broken world. That God isn’t making bad things happen. Everyone suffers. God doesn’t want us to feel pain and we still suffer sometimes. Life is hard and life will have bad things and good things. I know that life is hard and that hard times happen to us. I know God is with me, but I know I feel bad sometimes. That’s why I have to make my faith my own.”
Silence. I listen.
Potok’s words in The Chosen, remind me; “You have to want to listen to it (silence), and then you can hear it. It has a strange, beautiful texture. It doesn’t always talk. Sometimes – sometimes it cries, and you can hear the pain of the world in it. It hurts to listen to it then. But you have to.” My son is contemplating the mystery of a God who allows suffering, if God is good.
“Luca, Dad said that? You are right. There is suffering. This life is the process of living with hope, fighting for hope, and sometimes knowing what we want and need to change may not change. But, we keep hoping, believing, and living good lives.”
“Mom, no offense, but I really admire Dad. He had to make his faith his own. He didn’t grow up knowing Jesus, so he decided to trust God. I know you decided too, but I want to choose on my own to make my faith my own, like Dad.” His words are without guile and full of love, honor, and admiration.
He’s a priest, gently reminding me of my privilege, telling me he’s honoring his struggle to believe, choosing love, and inviting me to choose my own faith again.
“I am not offended Luca. I am proud of you, and honored that you are choosing your faith. I love you.”
The years of my life have gone quickly; however, the rage, questions, and doubts of my teenage self were left unattended. I wanted purpose – to dream, do good, follow the God I didn’t understand. How can Luca metabolize racism, joy, faith, and curiosity? Will he find purpose in the messiness of life?
Potok’s wisdom to another young man, are words for my son, the priest: “Human beings do not live forever, Reuven (Luca). We live less than the time it takes to blink an eye, if we measure our lives against eternity. So, it may be asked what value is there to a human life. There is so much pain in the world. What does it mean to have to suffer so much if our lives are nothing more than the blink of an eye?
“I learned a long time ago, Reuven (Luca), that a blink of an eye in itself is nothing. But the eye that blinks, that is something. A span of life is nothing. But the man who lives that span, he is something.” (The Chosen, p. 217)
I am raising a priest. The responsibility is weighty. 14 years is enough to know pain, and joy. May God give me grace, patience, and wisdom to honor the good work of the Holy Spirit in my son, the priest.
Mother of four and wife of one awesome Mexican, Danielle Castillejo is a 2nd year student at The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology, studying to get her MA in Counseling and Psychology. She works and volunteers part time in an organization in Seattle that advocates for the agency and freedom of commercial sex workers. A survivor of abuse herself she continues to fight for sanity and love every day.