Today’s guest post comes from Melissa Davis, who tells us “I currently live in Utah, where I spend most of my time trying to raise my 4 kids. I earned my B.S. and M.S. degrees in English from Utah State University. I currently teach online literature and writing courses. I also love to study nutrition, and am in the middle of trying to earn a graduate degree in Human Nutrition, which probably will take me another 20 years. If I ever get any spare time I love to read, write, cook, and spend time with family and friends.”
I try and keep a straight face and calm demeanor as my 5-year old son Gavin tells me “I don’t like Jesus.” He had not announced this out of the blue. In fact, it was probably my own fault since I had asked him, “Don’t you want to go to Primary and learn about Jesus?” I should have known that he would be honest and straightforward, and to him, not liking Jesus is not any different than not liking a kid at school, or the Easter bunny, or our rambunctious cat. But Jesus isn’t a kid at school, or the Easter bunny, or our cat, and frankly, I’m not sure what to say. I’m afraid if I start to talk about how great Jesus is, it will backfire on me. I’m afraid that saying nothing will somehow be a form of silent agreement.
Gavin is the most defiant of my children, and his religious exposure has differed from my older children. He spent the majority of his life living in south Texas, where our community was highly religious and highly conservative. When Gavin turned 3 and I looked to enroll him in pre-school, the most highly recommended school in our area was a Trinity Episcopal school, which had an extremely religious curriculum. Each day started out with chapel, and every time I asked him about chapel, he would shrug his shoulders and sigh. If I tried to pry further, he would admit that he thought chapel was pretty dull. Sometimes, Gavin would come home and say random, Christocentric things to me, such as “Our God is an awesome God,” or “Mom, Jesus has the whole world in His hands.” He was very serious as he told me these things, almost like he was trying to really figure them out for himself.
Every Sunday, we have a new battle. Our family starts to get ready for church, and Gavin will ask, in complete earnestness, “Do I have to go to church today?” He never wants to go, never wants to see his teachers, never wants to learn new songs. In fact, he isn’t really sold on much of anything with our church. He never volunteers to say the prayer, and sighs if we ask him to help. He laughs and runs around all through Family Home Evenings, or else sits on the couch and plugs his ears. He told me that he is not getting baptized when he turns 8, and only changed his mind after his older sister told him that he wouldn’t get a baptism celebration with treats and presents from the grandparents. There’s nothing I say that seems to motivate or excite him in the least when it comes to our church.
Even more worrisome to me is what I should share with him about my own experiences. How do I tell him that really, I spend a good deal of time at church bored as well? Really, sometimes the lessons are so dull that I want to cry instead of sit through five more minutes of debate about the exact hue of Joseph’s coat of many colors. I, too, want to sigh sometimes and ask, “Do I have to go to church today?” I have spent many an hour contemplating my own beliefs and feelings about not only religion but more specifically our church and its doctrines. However, to me, the church holds value, but that is something that is intangible, and difficult to articulate, particularly to a 5-year old.