I do not mean that everyone is an expert on God. I would argue that no one, regardless of title or training, is that. Some are experts on religion or on particular ways of thinking about God (man made systems all), but a true expert on God I’ve yet to meet. Nonetheless, I believe we are all theologians. What I mean by this is that each of us (humans, I mean), no matter our level of intentionality, is wondering, believing, speculating, reacting, doubting, pursuing, hoping, questioning (and on and on) with respect to God. I, of course, capitalize the word because I am persuaded that this particular journey every person is on is related to the God. However, use "god" or "higher power" or whatever term you prefer, and I submit my assertion stands. From the most adamant atheist to the best behaved fundamentalist, we’re all developing a theology as we move through life.
Even if we rarely consciously think or speak of the supernatural or divine, how we live and think demonstrates a particular orientation toward and understanding of what is and is not going on beyond us and inside us. Many religious systems (terminology I use for the sake of familiar communication, even though I believe religious systems and God have less to do with one another than we’re trained to believe) suggest that our unspoken theology is more reliable than what our mouths profess.
But none of that is terribly revolutionary. What is revolutionary, to me, is that I have had this fascinating reality thrust in front of me in the form of a four year-old boy. I am witnessing, one day at a time and in great detail, the development of one human’s theology (well, his everything, but this is one of the parts that matters most to me). And more daunting than the witnessing is the participating — this kid is bouncing his ideas, speculation, and questions off of me and Amy at every turn.
Just tonight over dinner we discussed everything from why God is invisible to the genealogy of Jesus, all at his prompting. I need to brush up on the first 17 verses of the New Testament so I’m ready when his curiosity expands beyond two generations. Last year I wrote about being with my grandmother when she died. She spent her final days a mile from us, and Aiden saw her frequently in that time. We sometimes drive past the home where she was several times a day, and we’ve had countless conversations about life, death, and Mamaw. His little wheels turn a little more deliberately when we talk about these things. I can see it happening, and it’s thrilling and overwhelming and absolutely spellbinding for me.
Aiden: Jesus didn’t have a mom and dad, right?
Me: Well yeah, he did actually. You know that, I think. His mom was Mary and…
Aiden: Yeah, and Joseph was his dad. I remember.
Aiden: And Mary and Joseph weren’t afraid, right?
Me: I don’t know. I would imagine that they–
Aiden: No, they weren’t afraid. Just like Princess Leia wasn’t afraid.
Me: (Nodding) Great.
Like I said, everyone is a theologian, and that process unfolds differently for all of us. My response to Aiden’s unfolding theology (which, in case I’m not being clear, is not about his proper intellectual response to a list of pre-articulated doctrines but about his spirit’s response to the life-altering reality of God’s Good News) matters. I want to love him enough to guide him well and trust God enough to not crush his spirit. It seems to me that programming and pushing him to a very particular pre-determined outcome would, indeed, be a crushing of his spirit. Likewise, abdicating my role as one of his two primary spiritual directors and capitulating to the countless other voices competing for his affection and allegiance would be depriving him of the fullest expression of my love. I want to let him be Aiden, following the Voice he hears while protecting, counseling, and correcting him when love and truth demand as much. This, it turns out, is not a science. It is a dirty, hilarious, tear-inducing art. However, I’ll be damned (and perhaps literally) if I’m going to refuse to pick up the brush even if some days I can’t find the paint.
For further readings on this journey, I refer to my friend Pepe, who has penned an excellent piece on his agenda for his boys. To this I say, "YES!"