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We Can Talk at Starbucks
Real Live Preacher ^ | 3/25/2005 | Gordon Atkinson

Posted on 03/26/2005 9:09:20 AM PST by sionnsar

My oldest daughter doesn’t believe in God anymore, so she says. She told me this recently at Starbucks.

Starbucks is the place we go to talk. The house is the place where we do the daddy/daughter thing. I enforce tough boundaries, which is my job, and she pushes hard against them, which is hers. Sometimes we get into passionate arguments about this, which can be a strain. But when I take her to Starbucks, it’s like we become two different people. We sit down and she starts talking. She talks to me about everything at Starbucks.

So I like taking her to Starbucks, as you can imagine. It’s our thing and we both know it. I’ll say, “Let’s go to Starbucks,” and she’ll give me the thumbs up. It means “Let’s talk.”

We were sitting there sipping our hot drinks recently and I said, “So tell me how you and God are doing these days.”

She got a sad look in her eyes before she spoke. She never hesitated, apparently never even considered hiding this from me. She put a mock-frown on her face, which is a way of indicating that you are serious about what you are going to say. Then she shook her head slowly back and forth in the way people do when they want you to know they regret having to say something, but they must.

“Don’t believe in him. I want to. I really wish I did. I’ve tried to believe in him, but I just don’t.”

I’d say about a hundred thoughts rushed into my head in that instant. But the thing that pushed its way to the surface was a warning thought. “Be very careful with her. Listen to her. Don’t speak.”

How and what we humans think about God is usually enmeshed with what is going on in our lives at any particular time. God language is deeply rooted in our psyche and perhaps our collective unconscious, if you believe in that sort of thing. I'm not sure I do, but it certainly seems to explain a lot. That’s why even those who do not believe in a diety might still yell, “Jesus Christ!” or “Oh my God!” in a moment of anger, passion, or fear. The language of God is deep and old and practically inescapable for most people.

When someone is giving you their theology, their God words, you should listen hard and be very gentle. The time to deliver your God words is when you are asked.

You see, I’ve taken this journey that she is beginning. This God stuff is my specialty, you might say. Like if a brick layer’s son was talking about building his first wall. And if I’m not careful, I’ll rush in with my answers and my story. If I’m not careful I will overwhelm her with my own journey.

And this is her journey. I will willingly and passionately share my own journey with her, when the time is right. God help me with the timing on this. She needs enough of me and not too much.

So she talked and talked and talked. She cried and so did I. As I listened, two things were very interesting to me.

First, it’s her inability to feel God’s presence that is making it hard for her to believe. She said, “I don’t really care that I can’t see God. I’ve already figured out that our senses mislead us. There are a lot of real things in the universe that we cannot see or touch or understand. I don’t really need to see or touch God to think that God might exist. But I don’t feel God inside. Things don’t seem real to me unless I can feel them.”

I made a mental note to follow up on that, because I don’t really understand it. It sounds like her mother. I, on the other hand, coming out of a lot of experiences with emotional religion, don’t trust my feelings. I always needed to understand the idea of God. That’s what I was always looking for in the old days.

Second, she loves church. She said that she really likes our church and certainly doesn’t want to stop coming. She said she likes my sermons and that they really make her think.

I started crying again when she said that. Just a little. Watery eyes.

And so she will continue to be active in our church. She’s keeping her eyes and her heart open. She would like very much to believe in God and hopes that God might make himself or herself feel real to her someday. Maybe very soon.

I was so happy to hear that she likes church. It seems to me that she stands in a place that is exactly the opposite of many people in our culture. I meet people all the time who believe in the existence of God, but who are so wounded by their experiences with church that they drop out of the practice of Christianity because they see nothing but hurtful and abusive behavior in it.

This is my daughter, my baby girl, who is growing up and thinking and experiencing and searching. This is my daughter who is passionate and engaged and searching. This is my daughter.

And my daughter doesn't believe in God.

She sat in my lap and let me read baby bible stories to her when she was very little. She sat on the blanket with the children of our church when she was a child. She gave her life to Christ in Vacation Bible School one year. She has grown up in the company of gentle people of faith.

My daughter doesn’t believe in God right now. Why do I feel so happy?

Because she wasn’t afraid to tell me.

Because the roots of faith that we have given her were born of a gentle and authentic Christianity. I trust that she will find her way in time, and further, that all of this will be her journey and her story. It will all be good.

Because I love her mind and her passion. You should see her. She talks about God more now that she doesn’t believe in God than ever before. She goes around her high school asking people what they think about God. She told me that if a boy can't tell her what he thinks about God, she's not interested in him. She's looking for a boy who is a deep thinker.

And because she and I have Starbucks and we talk to each other. How she honors me with this. Can she possibly know what that means to me, that she wants to talk to her father?

I don’t suppose she will until the day that she sits with a son or daughter of her own and asks, “So how are you and God doing these days?”

rlp

My daughter, who is sixteen, gave me permission to write about this.


TOPICS: Mainline Protestant
KEYWORDS: spiritualjourney
[RLP writes some great pieces. --sionnsar]
1 posted on 03/26/2005 9:09:20 AM PST by sionnsar
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To: sionnsar

Sounds expensive, but what the heck? If it works, whose counting money?


2 posted on 03/26/2005 9:14:42 AM PST by F.J. Mitchell (Hillary Rodhamclinton is phonier than a three dollar bill clinton.)
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To: sionnsar
Just found his story archive. One can burn a lot of time here...
3 posted on 03/26/2005 9:36:25 AM PST by sionnsar (†trad-anglican.faithweb.com† || Iran Azadi || Where are we going, and why are we in this handbasket?)
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To: grellis

Hm.


4 posted on 03/26/2005 10:08:34 AM PST by BibChr ("...behold, they have rejected the word of the LORD, so what wisdom is in them?" [Jer. 8:9])
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To: BibChr

She should have been asked if she believed in Satan. I don't see how she could possibly say no while living in this society.


5 posted on 03/26/2005 11:08:22 AM PST by rudyudy
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Comment #6 Removed by Moderator

To: BibChr
Hm.

Alrighty! You go first.

8^}

7 posted on 03/26/2005 11:34:55 AM PST by grellis (Softly softly catchy monkey)
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To: grellis

Bwo-o-o-ok, bwok-bwok-bwok!

(c;


8 posted on 03/26/2005 12:29:36 PM PST by BibChr ("...behold, they have rejected the word of the LORD, so what wisdom is in them?" [Jer. 8:9])
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To: sionnsar

Hmmmmm. That sounded like a great piece of Pop Psychology. Hey my daughter doesn't believe in God but it's ok, because she told me.

Isn't that special. Let's have a party!

"If someone were to ask me what is the most general symptom of this spiritual anemia, I would surely reply: indifference to both truth and falsehood. Today, propaganda proves whatever it wants to, and people more or less passively accept whatever it suggests. Of course, this indifference hides a weariness, something like a disgust with the faculty of judgment. But the faculty of judgment cannot be exercised without a certain interior pledge. Anyone who judges, pledges himself. Modern man does not pledge himself any more, because he no longer has anything to pledge. Called upon to side with truth or falsehood, good or evil, Christian man pledged his soul at the same time, that is to say he risked his salvation. Metaphysical faith was in him an inexhaustible source of energy. Modern man is still capable of judging, since he is still capable of reasoning. But his judgment doesn't function anymore than a motor functions without fuel, no part of the motor is missing, but there is no gas in the tank."





9 posted on 03/26/2005 1:06:30 PM PST by RunningJoke
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To: RunningJoke

PS. The product placement was a nice touch. It brought a tear to this old saleman.


10 posted on 03/26/2005 1:10:15 PM PST by RunningJoke
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To: RunningJoke; seamole

She's 16 and a PK (preacher's kid). Growing up a PK, I too had my times. The expectations are so high, it's natural to push back. But having grown up with other PKs (some of which did "go bad"), I'd say the signs are promising.


11 posted on 03/26/2005 1:19:29 PM PST by sionnsar (†trad-anglican.faithweb.com† || Iran Azadi || Where are we going, and why are we in this handbasket?)
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To: sionnsar
***She sat in my lap and let me read baby bible stories to her when she was very little. She sat on the blanket with the children of our church when she was a child. She gave her life to Christ in Vacation Bible School one year. She has grown up in the company of gentle people of faith.***

Two thought come to mind...


"Jesus answered him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God."

God is not real to anyone until they are born again. After that you can't hardly get away from Him!


"Train up a child in the way he should go: and WHEN HE IS OLD, he will not depart from it."

If the seeds of truth were planted in her life they will eventually bear fruit - even if it takes her till she's an old lady. I believe that in the end of our lives we are drawn to the things that most deeply impressed us at the beginning.
12 posted on 03/26/2005 2:06:52 PM PST by PetroniusMaximus
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To: PetroniusMaximus
If the seeds of truth were planted in her life they will eventually bear fruit - even if it takes her till she's an old lady.

My sister spent a number of years away, but eventually came back.

13 posted on 03/26/2005 2:22:10 PM PST by sionnsar (†trad-anglican.faithweb.com† || Iran Azadi || Where are we going, and why are we in this handbasket?)
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To: sionnsar
Good article. I really appreciate your posting it. It reminded me of who really makes us believers in the first place:

Heb 12:2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

We can talk to our kids until we're blue in the face. Hopefully the good will rub off, but they'll never really believe unless Christ works the same miracle in their lives as he has in ours.

14 posted on 03/26/2005 6:19:52 PM PST by DouglasKC
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To: sionnsar; seamole
Remember Holiday Inn? Bing Crosby tells Marjorie Reynolds, "When I was was sixteen I thought my dad was pretty wall-eyed(?). By the time I'd turned tweny-one, I was amazed at how much he'd learned."
15 posted on 03/26/2005 9:27:16 PM PST by onedoug
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To: sionnsar

read again later


16 posted on 03/26/2005 10:04:06 PM PST by LiteKeeper (The radical secularization of America is happening)
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To: BibChr
Nyuk nyuk nyuk! Happy Easter, Dan!

Without having reread the article, here are a few points which have stuck with me:

Starbucks is a great place to have a confidential chat with a friend. Is it the best environment for a father to discuss a dilemma of faith with his daughter? I remember sixteen all too well. My answer is no.

Again, being able to remember the turbulence of my teen years: It seems to me that this young lady is obliquely asking her father for something more than he is giving her. When we raise our kids, we give them structure, we set them boundaries...right up until their adolescence, when this odd notion of "letting them spread their wings" seems to become the new structure. In my soul I know it--this is the point in a girl's life when she has to have that structure and assurance. It pains me to see that this girl is asking her father for that guidance and he is not giving it to her, for a reason which (to me, at least) amounts to liberal psychobabble.

I am only speaking as a woman who was once that young lady. I am not the parent of a teenage daughter so it is difficult for me to understand his reluctance. I recognize her need and I see it passing unfulfilled.

17 posted on 03/27/2005 11:31:47 AM PST by grellis (Softly softly catchy monkey)
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To: grellis

Those are really good, thoughtful observations. I guess I have mixed feelings; I know the blind panic I anticipate I'd feel in my heart in the same conversation. He mostly seems to be concerned with patting himself on the back for having such a great relationship with his daughter, and being so mature and mellow, than he is with the fact — and I speak as an unapologetic knuckle-dragging Bible believer here — that if she died in the condition she professes, she'd spend eternity under the merciless wrath of God.

But they'd have had a nice talk, he and his daughter... as she made her way to Hell.

So I guess that (in a nutshell) is the root of my mixed feelings.

Dan


18 posted on 03/27/2005 4:45:29 PM PST by BibChr ("...behold, they have rejected the word of the LORD, so what wisdom is in them?" [Jer. 8:9])
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To: sionnsar
She would like very much to believe in God and hopes that God might make himself or herself feel real to her someday.

'or herself'. OK. She just needs to go to a different church. Maybe one with priestesses in the woods.

19 posted on 03/28/2005 7:21:37 AM PST by polymuser
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To: BibChr
...that if she died in the condition she professes, she'd spend eternity under the merciless wrath of God.

Exactly. He seems a bit too prideful of the "openness" he shares with his daughter and is putting waaay too much emphaasis on their relationship. She's not asking him for help with their relationship. He is leaving God out of the equation--in a way, he is purposely leaving God out of the equation, so he can continue to be her friend.

Some friend!

20 posted on 03/28/2005 8:42:50 AM PST by grellis (Softly softly catchy monkey)
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To: BibChr; grellis
I agree that Grellis made excellent and thoughtful observations. There was a definite sense that his daughter was trying to get through to him but failing.

BibChr writes:

I guess I have mixed feelings; I know the blind panic I anticipate I'd feel in my heart in the same conversation. He mostly seems to be concerned with patting himself on the back for having such a great relationship with his daughter, and being so mature and mellow ...

I had exactly the same feeling, and look with particular suspicion at this bit:

But the thing that pushed its way to the surface was a warning thought. “Be very careful with her. Listen to her. Don’t speak.” ... When someone is giving you their theology, their God words, you should listen hard and be very gentle. The time to deliver your God words is when you are asked.

I think that he probably does not listen much at all. He may be someone who dominates every conversation with his own emotional needs and shifting dramas.

To me, his self-congratulations had a rather familiar ring, because, alas, I have a background with alcoholics in my family. I can remember as a teenager going to counselling sessions, and listening, for a hour uninterrupted, while adult relatives talked about the importance of listening, of communicating, of relating to others rather than judging them. They would talk endlessly about it, pluming themselves on their sensitivity, yet apparently oblivious that they were preaching, and not listening at all. If anyone interrupts them in that mood, they can suddenly turn nasty, so soon no one does.

21 posted on 04/03/2005 9:31:18 PM PDT by BlackVeil
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To: BlackVeil
Just got back from vacation!

You're right--this father's comments read like a 12-step psychobabblist, not a man of any cloth, not like a father. Familiar ring indeed. We can only pray he comes to realize this and gives his daughter what she needs--the leadership of a parent.

22 posted on 04/12/2005 5:37:34 PM PDT by grellis (Softly softly catchy monkey)
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