I’m the oldest of five children of a Baptist minister, but one of the most important lessons ever taught me, I learned from my mother.
My father led small congregations, which meant that my mother was the Women’s Ministry director, the Vacation Bible School coordinator, the Women’s Missionary Union director, and the chief cook and bottle washer of the kitchen and nursery.
I vowed early on never to marry a preacher. But that’s not the lesson I’m talking about.
When I was 12, my mother was still a stay-at-home mom. I can remember very clearly the question I had for her before heading up to bed in the parsonage’s converted attic that was more than cozy with all us kids in it.
At the bottom of the stairs to tell my mom goodnight, I asked, “How do I know God’s really real?”
I had made a profession of faith when I was 7 years old. I now know that many children who believe in Jesus at an early age have questions later on as their ability to reason does battle with their childlike faith. But that night, I was troubled by my audacity to doubt what I’d grown up with, and it took a little bravery to actually voice my doubt.
My mother doesn’t remember this exchange. She was holding my baby brother. All her days were exhausting, so this was at the end of just one more.
(Perhaps it’s a universal parenting truth that the hard questions rarely come at opportune times. So, we pray for God’s grace to be our sufficiency, and it is, even when we’re not aware of it.)
“How do I know God’s really real?” I wanted reassurance from that concrete, practical knowledge my mother used in every aspect of our lives. She answered me so quickly, without hesitation, without careful or prayerful thought; certainly without realizing how much this would mean to me:
“Why don’t you ask God if he’s real?”
That made sense to me, coming from the woman whom I knew could handle anything in our church life, family life or social life. Her split-second reliance on God to resolve my doubt came from her deep reserve of faith.
So I went on up, got into bed next to my sleeping sister and prayed as I always did, staring at the ceiling. But this time, I had that big question, and I sent it straight at God.
“God, are you real?” It is still, more than 40 years later, an indelible memory. I’ve not experienced God’s presence any more distinctly than that night.
Perhaps it was so distinct because of the lack of anticipation of what to expect.
But the room suddenly was alive with God’s “realness.” I didn’t hear or see anything. The Lord of Life simply let me know that he was there, not just in my room, but very obviously more and bigger and “there” everywhere.
It was so powerful that I remember looking over at my sister and wondering how she could still be sleeping.
I’ve not doubted his existence since.
Anne Krause is another of this year’s new rotation of Faith Walk writers. Contact her at email@example.com.