Growing Up and Coming to Believe

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They entrusted them to the Lord in whom they had come to believe.

Acts 14: 23

This year, my son (almost 15) traveled with a group to the Holy Land with his dad’s church. My husband and I are both clergy, so our kids have experienced a lot of church in their lives with varying degrees of enthusiasm. On my son’s return from their trip, I saw something new in his eyes. Rather than church being yet another task, it was becoming part of him.

When kids are little, we imagine that faith is easy. Easter means candy, colored eggs, and bunnies. Setting aside any critiques of the commercialization of the holiday, this understanding of Easter has its place. Whatever the historical origin of the Easter bunny and its eggs, they represent the joy of life coming forth from life. This is a perfectly adequate invitation to the miracle of Easter. The promises of God are wonder and delight and beauty. Yes, please.

In contrast, the God of Jesus Christ brings life out of death. Maturing in faith is the moving from God of the egg basket to God of the empty tomb. This is not necessarily a question of chronological age. There are children whose faith has been formed and enlivened by suffering deeper than any adult, and there are adults whose spirituality is shallower than a teacup.

I think it was the author Marcus Borg who said he responded to atheists by assuring them that he didn’t believe in the God they didn’t believe in either. God is not the omniscient patriarch in the sky of cartoons and creepy religious tracts. Part of the complicated nature of growing in faith is that our theology must grow, too. We can’t drag the Easter bunny around with us forever. When our relationships falter or our spouse dies or our friends get cancer, that Easter bunny, caricature of God can’t help.  We need a God who has raised Christ from the dead—yes, the actual dead—when we face the powers of death ourselves.   

The God of the empty tomb is one we come to believe in; you can take the Easter bunny for someone else’s word, but to believe in the tomb, you have to see it for yourself. You aren’t believing because you have been told a story about God. You believe because God has become your story.

— Sara Irwin

Photo: The author’s son at the empty tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem

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