“Does God really know our thoughts?” I asked my husband.
“Yes,” he replied without hesitation.
“Is it a sin if you just think something?” I inquired.
“Yes,” he confirmed.
“Is there no other way into the Kingdom of Heaven than through Jesus?” I asked.
“No,” he answered.
“What happens to people in remote areas of the world who never hear of Christianity or Jesus or have their own faith?” I swallowed hard before asking my final question: “Will they go to hell?”
“Yes,” he replied, apparently unconcerned about the fates of these faceless people. “That’s why missionaries try to convert them.” — Adapted from Embodying Soul: A Return to Wholeness—A Memoir of New Beginnings (coming February 14, 2020 by Curiosa Publishing).
On and on this question-and-answer period went. Until finally, my husband threw up his hands and said, “Keri, I don’t know. This is just what I’ve been taught. I just believe like a child.”
Christianity was a staple of both my husband’s home life and school life. He was as close to an “expert” as I had ever gotten the chance to question. I went into this hoping that he could finally help me see the truth. Maybe, I could finally stop worrying every night about hell, sin, God’s jealousy. Maybe he could help me settle into some final knowing.
Believe like a child, he suggested.
What was that supposed to mean? I thought, snidely. If he was actually “believing like a child,” well, wouldn’t he be asking question after question, like I was? Wouldn’t that mean having a lot more “I wonders” and a lot fewer definitive yeses and nos? Wouldn’t that mean that his curiosity was bottomless, as mine was?
Instead, his mantra of “believe like a child” put a stopper in all his questioning and curiosity.
Sitting in that restaurant booth with my soon-to-be-husband that day, I had desperately been wanting some answers. I didn’t want to just believe. I wanted to know. And I expected him to help me get me there.
Fast forward to today, and my husband and I have changed a lot in our respective views. Fast forward to today, and I have given the role of “help me get there” to many other teachers, books, philosophies and belief systems.
Eventually, I realized that I could appreciate how Christian beliefs provided comfort and assurance to millions, but it wasn’t for me. If I couldn’t know, then I couldn’t believe. It was as simple as that.
I moved on, into the worlds of yoga, Buddhism and many other spiritual traditions. Initially, they satisfied my curiosity and opened up my mind. But in the end, none of them really fit me, either. Too tight, I suppose, because whatever tradition or modality I was studying, it always felt incomplete in some way. I tried, but I never could entirely let go and believe like a child in any of those traditions, either.
I accepted that my path to truth could no longer be one where I try on and take off the belief sets already established in our world. That decision wasn’t based on belief. It was based on knowing.
I knew that my path could never be defined by the books or creeds or testaments that were handed down. I knew that my path is one of curiosity and no boundaries. I knew that I was devoted to one thing only, and that was to asking questions. And I knew that my creed was to never need to believe anything at all. And I could only do that if I gave myself permission to start off believing like a child.
Not believing like a child the way my husband meant — blindly, obediently. But believing like a child the way a child actually would — relentlessly, insatiably.
I would never say that I am an unbeliever. I believe there is meaning, and that there is depth to this human life. But I know that we are meant to believe like a child the way a child actually does: with constant questions, pondering, and endless curiosity.