The other night, I was tucking my daughter in to bed and she asked me some surprisingly deep questions. Since I don't remember the conversation exactly, I'll paraphrase as best I can.
First, she asked me, "Daddy? Why do we have to be tempted by swearing, and tattoos, and being mean to each other? It's so hard!"
Now, don't get the impression that my daughter wants to rush out and live the sailor life, as this is far from her nature, but rather it is indicative that she seems to want to live a very good life, away from these problems.
I sat down next to her and asked her a few questions about life as we know it. Do we lack for food? Or clothing? Or a place to live? Do we worry about people coming to our house and dragging us into the street to hurt us? Are we (personally) at war with people and worry about our lives day to day?
Clearly her answers to each of these was in the negative, and I reminded her that it didn't always used to be this way, that there once was a time when people did have to worry about each of these things, and that we are very blessed not to. Then I explained to her that even so, we should be grateful for some of the challenges we still have in life. I reminded her that if we did not know sadness, we wouldn't truly appreciate happiness. If we didn't ever have pain, we would not know how wonderful it is to be pain free. And, finally, if we did not have temptations, we would not have freedom to choose.
I don't know if she got it, but she seemed content. But as I got up to go, she then asked me a stunner question ...
"Daddy, can I ask you the hardest question I can think of?"
"Sure," I said with a sigh, believing that she was just delaying going to sleep.
"How did God get to be God?" she asked.
Well, I just had to turn around and go sit down again. This was one of the best questions I think I've ever heard. I turned it around on her, and asked, "Who is God to us?"
"He's our Father in Heaven," she quickly answered.
"So who are we to Him?"
"So if he is our Father, what does that say about Him?" I asked.
She pondered for a moment and then it was clear that realization struck her. I could see it in her face, but she didn't know how to express it. I prodded her a little by asking, "If he is our Father, and we can grow up to be like Him, then doesn't it make sense that once upon a time, he used to be a son?"
She got a big smile and then came to one of the two next obvious conclusions by proclaiming, "So that means that someday we can have our own kids and be in charge of our own world!"
I smiled, and reminded her that our Father in Heaven does indeed want us to grow up to be like Him. I then tied that in to her earlier question about why we are tempted, and told her that Heavenly Father wants us to make good choices so that we can go back to live with Him again.
She was happy with these discussions, and I finally got up and was able to leave the room.
Here you'd think I'd be done with this post.
But then the day after, it was clear she was still thinking about this topic. She said, "Daddy, do you remember what we talked about last night?"
"Yes," I said.
"So if God was once a son of somebody else, and he was the son of somebody else, where did it all start?"
A smile crept across my face, and I was reminded of a conversation I had had with my wife years ago on this very topic, one where my wife went all wild-eyed and got a headache thinking about it. Frankly, to most of us poor puny humans, the reality is that things go on forever – in both directions in time or whatever the eternal equivalent of time is. This is something we have difficulty grasping.
I didn’t know how to communicate this to my daughter, but I tried, with, "It didn’t start anywhere. It just keeps going forever, just as we will keep having kids forever."
Then she surprised me again, with a most grown up response. "Well, when I die, I’m going to ask Him about it."
This made me laugh, as it is a most grown up thing to say. I said, "You do that." Then I told her to please not be in a hurry to do that, as I want her here with me, and she said she wasn’t, but she was going to remember the question.
It's a very good question.