Once, on a long hike up a large cliff, Marielle asked, “Mom, where does the sky begin?” Brian chuckled, thinking that she wouldn’t understand when I answered that “the sky begins where the ground ends; we are always walking in the sky.” She didn’t say much more about it, but I felt confident that I had given here the right answer. Once you are up high enough, you see that the air meets the earth and we are indeed surrounded by sky.
You may have noticed that this isn’t how young children draw their pictures. They create a stark blue line for the sky and a stark green line for the ground, while people and objects occupy the middle white space of the picture. I wonder if we apply this sharply defined perspective to God’s presence in our everyday lives. Do we view God as something “up there” in a separate space away from us rather than surrounding us all the time? Perhaps we view faith experiences as something that happen only on a particular day, like Sunday or a particular place, like the beach.
God winks, holy moments, yay Gods, thin spaces; there are many names for the elusive times when we become aware of something much larger than ourselves. I am fortunate to be able to observe some of these moments when I work with children and youth. I witness the Holy Spirit working when I see different generations interacting with one another, hear earnest prayers shared in a safe place, and listen to youth thoughtfully consider complex issues.
I believe that these moments happen in all our lives a lot more regularly than we realize. Even when we are able to notice, we may lack language to describe the experience in a way that doesn’t sound cheesy or weird. I think older children wonder what it is “supposed to” feel like to believe in God. I certainly don’t have an easy answer to that question. But I do believe that by talking about God in everyday life more, we grow in faith together.
How do we start? First, by paying attention to those moments when we feel joy, love, awe, and wonder. Make a mental note and ponder the significance. What new thoughts or ideas came to you during those times? Second, find a way to share what you have observed with your family at the dinner table, in the car, before bed, or anytime. Keep an open dialogue about faith. You can spur conversation with questions like, “What was your most memorable moment of the day?”, “When did you feel most at peace?”, and “What are some places, people or things that you consider to be beautiful or amazing?”
Keep in mind there is no one right way or place to experience God. Sunsets, mountains, music, water and quiet sanctuaries speak to many, but God is not limited to those times and spaces. While we all will encounter God in individual ways, sharing our experiences with those closest to us will help us all to grow in the process.