When I was little my mummy told me that all the banging and crashing was God moving his furniture around and the bright flash was him taking a photograph with his flash camera. (So he could remember what it looked like!)
As I have grown older I have begun to question this theory, what is your opinion?
I somehow think there is not a little of tongue-in-cheek about your question!
Nevertheless, though you may not have fully realised it, you have brought up some really important issues:
- How much of what I believe comes from my family?
- How much really came from what Jesus did 2000 years ago, and how much is a product of my own family’s culture?
- Do I still accept what they led me to believe, or do I now believe something different?
- Is what I now believe just as without-any-foundation as what they told me?
- Should I reject child-LIKE faith, just as I once rejected childISH faith?
So let’s look again at your wonderful mum’s story, told to calm the fears of her little daughter; what features of the story actually agree with Bible teaching about God?
- God exists
- He is a sentient being (that means he has mind and will and feelings)
- He exists outside our world, though he is able to affect it
- He is immensely powerful, dealing routinely in forces which modern science still has no hope of influencing
And which features don’t agree with the Bible? Well at your age, I think we can let you guess, can’t we?
So, what do we learn from all this? Well, like I said above, some really important lessons. Here’s an example:
Everybody eventually decides what is the “authority” in their life. The thing which tells them how to act, what to consider important, and things like that.
For some it will be “the way I was brought up by my parents”, for others it will be “the values my teachers gave me at school”, or “the attitudes and values of my friends”, or “what I consider to be civilised values of society”.
For Christians it should be “the values God reveals himself to have in the Bible”.
Unfortunately, over many years, the teachings of Jesus in the Bible have often become distorted by “Folk Religion”.
So people pick up an “it must be so, surely” belief – which says things like this: “God helps those who help themselves”. Once it has been said, over and over, many times, people start thinking it must be written in the Bible, and then they start to think it is normal Christian belief. (Unfortunately, the Bible doesn’t say this, it says the opposite: most people need to rely more on God, and less on themselves.)
Another idea which gets very distorted, even in churches, is Jesus’s teaching on what happens after we die. The picture of sitting on clouds playing harps is very widespread — and completely wrong! You’ll need to see my other answers for more details on this, but for now, I just want to repeat very loudly – IT WILL BE EXCITING (VERY), NOT BORING!
So, what do we do about all this? Well let’s first go back to your mum, and admit that for a mum to tell this to her little frightened child in the middle of a thunderstorm is probably exactly the right thing to do. She didn’t exactly need to check her fine theological detail in these circumstances, her only concern was rightly for her frightened child.
However. Now you’re a grown-up (aren’t you?;-)
For you it IS important not to carry over childish misunderstandings to your adult faith.
Why? Well God wants you to represent him. And any Rep needs to be knowledgeable about his product. If a Rep isn’t accurate about his claims, then very soon his product will fall into disrepute and nobody will buy it.
If you ask people why they don’t believe, surprisingly often they will trot out ideas about God which are total rubbish, then say they can’t believe in a God who is like that! You feel like saying, “Neither can I! I can’t believe in a God like that either – because actually God isn’t like that in the first place!”
So we need to understand what God is REALLY like. How do we do that?
One day, one of his disciples asked Jesus to show them God. Jesus replied, “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father”. (John Ch14 v9)
You can only take this one way, Jesus is claiming to be God! And just in case we find that hard to take, he motors right on. He dispels any doubts about what he means, and how this works. Just check through his next words for what he says about himself and Father God:
“How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.”
If I take a glass of water and pour a whole bottle of ink in there, what have I got? Well, the ink is IN the water, but the water is also IN the ink. They are now a new substance – diluted ink, I suppose you could call it.
If you look at the water, you see the ink. If you look at the ink, you see the water.
Is the water gone? No, it is still there. Is the ink no longer present? No, it is there too. So there are two different things which are intermingled so completely that when you look at one you see the other. Now this is only an imperfect illustration, but it helps our understanding of what Jesus was meaning. He was claiming to be so “mixed in” with Father God that if you look at him, you see the Father.
Which is quite useful, because (as your story shows) the Human Race isn’t very good with ideas about God. So it is much easier for us to be able to see what God is like, just by looking at Jesus.
So what are YOU going to do about this? You need to develop your own understanding of what your Father God is like, to unhook yourself from the inappropriate parts of what you might have misunderstood as a child.
And to do this, you have to get to know Jesus.
How? (Obvious next question, isn’t it?)
Well, you can read all about him for yourself in the Bible. You’ve got four eyewitness accounts of his life – none of which contradict each other, though they often speak about different events.
You can read all four accounts in an afternoon – all easy enough so far.
But here’s the big deal – there is another way to get to know Jesus. Remember that though he died, he came back to life again. The Bible says nothing about him dying again – in fact it is quite clear that he didn’t. So – as we remember at Easter – he is still alive!
And Humans ARE good at getting to know people who are alive! How do we do that? By talking to each other, and finding out things about each other.
You do the same with Jesus. Try it.
(Then, when it works, tell others to try it.)