It starts with a seed.
On the final stretch home after an early evening of running errands, Alex (who is normally quiet and distracted by books or action figures while we drive) tells me about the life cycle of pumpkins. From seeds to Jack-o-Lanterns? I ask with a small smile in the rear view mirror.
From seeds to pie, he corrects me.
He proceeds to tell me about the amazing qualities of seeds and of nature. Did I know that there are male and female flowers and that bees pollinate the pumpkin flowers, which then wilt and fall off and then the pumpkins can grow?
And, did I know that inside every seed, every seed, not only pumpkins, there is a tiny plant already there, inside, just waiting to grow?
He pauses for a moment to catch his breath. I sit at a red light, left with that image – a pumpkin seed in my palm, the magic that we can hold in our hands and the metaphor of it all for us. We are all born with wonder and beauty and greatness inside of this shell. We are all mystery and chaos and unknown potential, beating here inside this life, this moment.
We only need water, sunlight, the patience of a gardener, and we can blossom.
The light turns green and he’s off. He asks questions about oxygen and how trees breathe and how it impacts us and the environment. And I realize just how much of my pre-college education, my junior high science classes, for example, have been swept from my brain to make room for the more important things of this life-in-the-moment: Where I left the car keys. How many scoops for the perfect pot of coffee. The twenty-five different passwords I’m supposed to remember just to maneuver my way through the internet on a daily basis.
I’m sorry, Bud, I tell him, I’m not much of a scientist, but we can research it at home.
We’re almost home now, his chatter has slowed a bit, but as we drive through the final set of lights before our hill, he asks can scientists believe in God?
Of course! I tell him. I explain that science began as a quest toward God and that there are many, many Christians, even today, who are also scientists. The quest for understanding is universal, everyone has questions. I tell him, but you can have faith too.
He tells me about his best friend on the bus and how he won’t believe in God, because his father thinks we came from stardust.
Well, I don’t know about stardust, Alex, but I do know about God and science and it is entirely possible to be a critical thinker and a Christ follower.
And people can change, he tells me as we pass by the mailboxes.
As we climb out of the van and gather packages and his sleeping siblings, he is now talking about Paul from the Bible. Did I know that a lot of Paul’s writings were letters to the churches?
So goes my son’s brain, his heart, his quest. And I am again left feeling at a loss, knowing that the questions will only get harder, the discussions will only get deeper and my best-of-the-best will not always be enough. I will fail as his guide. I will fail as his mother.
But, I think it’s going to be okay. I have faith. Faith that I am more than stardust or the cosmic afterbirth of X + Y colliding. I have faith enough that I can trust my own growing son’s every question and doubt and life choice, to a God who has a purpose for him.
And I have to tell you, it’s nights like this, after conversations like we had, that make me joyful with anticipation and wonder, marveling at the works God is doing in and through my little guy, even now, as a 2nd grader on the bus. As a chatterbox kid in the backseat of my minivan.