Depending on when you asked that question you probably got a different answer. Parents have been answering that question in different ways since time began. There’s the stork story, the cabbage patch story, the story of the birds and the bees, you get the picture. Different kids at different ages can handle different stories. A lot of it has to do with how ready your child is and how ready YOU are to share. I remember vividly the day I found out – February 16, 1977, the day they aired the ABC Afternoon School Special, “My Mom’s Having A Baby.” We plopped down in the family room and watched it with my mom. The cartoon parts were hilarious and they at nine years old, that was enough for me. When I got into eighth grade we had “sex ed” with Mr. Reller and Mr. Reller took the more direct approach to learning. He let us ask any questions we wanted and there were some doozies. I found out more in that one day of class than in the whole rest of eighth grade! But if nine year old me was in that room, it would have been too much. I wasn’t ready for it. It took time for me to gain the maturity, knowledge, and level of understanding to process the things we were talking about. I think I’m STILL processing some of what we talked about that day.
The same is true for our faith.
We need time to mature in our faith as we ask more and more complex questions. That’s a fundamental truth for anything we want to learn about. We start with the basics, build a good foundation, and then go on from there. Nobody starts with the LEGO Expert set. We don’t talk about God the same way to a 5-year old as we would a teenager or an adult. They have different levels of understanding. But what happens when you grow older and your faith doesn’t grow with you? When we leave our faith in childhood, our God stays there, too. Lots of people leave the church in their teens and don’t come back until something draws them back. Whether that’s getting married, raising children, or noticing a hole in their life they are hoping to fill, they come back to church with only the tools they left with. So whatever God we believed in back when we left the church is often the God we still believe in when we come back. The problem is our adult ideas don’t match up with our Sunday School God. Sometimes people never come back because they can’t reconcile the God they believe in with the life they know. But it’s not God that doesn’t make sense, it’s that our ideas about God haven’t changed as we have. And this isn’t a new problem either. If you have a Bible or a Bible app on your phone, would you please go to Hebrews 5 beginning with verse 11. Hebrews 5:11. You’ll find that most of the problems and issues we come up with today are the same problems and issues we’ve had all along. Even the 1st century church had these problems. You’d think being so close to the time when Jesus actually lived, they might have an advantage, but they struggled with faith just as much as we do today. Maybe even more so because everything was so new.
We have much to say about this, but it is hard to make it clear to you because you no longer try to understand. 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. – Hebrews 5:11-14
Is your faith still in its infancy?
Just because you’re going to church doesn’t mean your faith is growing. It needs to be nurtured and tended to and fed like any other living thing. For a garden to bloom, you can’t just plant seeds in the ground. You have to water it, position it to get the right amount of sun, give it good soil to take root in, and tend to it. If you don’t, you might get lucky but usually, you just have a bunch of seeds buried in the ground. In the same way, faith needs to be nurtured. Without care, it just withers away and that’s what has Paul frustrated. He’s writing to this group of believers who he feels have grown lax in their spiritual growth. He’s so frustrated he insults them, “You need milk, not solid food!” He tells them they should be teaching this stuff, but they still haven’t mastered the basics. And he says, “But solid food is for the mature, who by CONSTANT USE have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” Constant use. If we don’t practice our faith it becomes stagnant. We grow up, our ideas of the world become more complex, but our vision of God remains rooted in our childhood.
As you get older, you don’t believe the stork brought you to your family.
But a lot of us hold on to childhood beliefs about God unless our faith grows with our understanding of the world. In one of his sermons, Andy Stanley mentions some of these versions of God from our childhood. One of them he calls Bodyguard God. Bodyguard God is the God that always protects us from harm. This is the God who never lets bad things happen to good people. We tell children if they listen and obey then God will keep them safe, but to a child this means nothing bad will ever happen to me as long as I believe. But that is just not true and it leads people to abandon their belief in God the moment things go bad because they have based their understanding of God on something that isn’t true. God never promises us a life free from harm. He even says it out loud. Jesus told them flat out, “In this world you will have trouble.” I don’t know how much more plain he could be. “In this world you will have trouble (John 16:33).” Then he goes on, “BUT (my emphasis) take heart! I have overcome the world.” Jesus doesn’t promise us a life free from trouble. In fact, he guarantees it! It’s just we don’t have to lose hope when trouble comes our way because we know God is with us. But Bodyguard God? That God doesn’t exist.
Then there’s Blanket God.
Blanket God is the God of comfort, the God who is always present. He reminds me of Linus from the Peanuts gang because his blanket is always with him. But there are times in our lives where we are distant from God. There are times in our lives where we not only don’t feel his presence but instead feel his absence. And this poses a big problem for Blanket God believers because they feel abandoned and sometimes it leads them to abandon their faith. What they don’t understand is God is still there. Even in those moments where we can’t feel his presence, God is constantly reaching out to us. There’s just something that is blocking our vision of him. Sometimes that means we have to weather the storm until the fog clears from our eyes. This is when we need a deeper faith to hold on even when we can’t see God for ourselves. A friend of mine from Georgia gave me the best advice one time when I was going through my own period of doubt and it’s stuck with me ever since. He told me when he looks back on his life he can see all the ways where God helped him through the valleys. He couldn’t see it at the time because he was stuck in his own grief or anger or depression or whatever he was feeling at the time. But afterward, he would look back and see how God was present for him and when he was going through another valley, that’s how he could keep his faith in God, knowing that even if he seems absent God is still at work in his life.
There’s also Gap God.
Gap God is the God who fills in the gaps of our faith. This God is the God who explains the unexplainable. Whenever something happens when we don’t understand or can’t explain, we say, “It’s a God thing.” And while that might seem to be giving God his props, it’s really undermining our faith. Because God becomes a crutch for the unexplainable when we start to use God in that way. Remember when the AIDS epidemic first began and there were people like Pat Robertson who said it was caused by God to rid the world of homosexuality? Then they had to backtrack when heterosexual people started getting it too. Or when Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005 and those same God pundits declared it was God’s wrath upon a sexually promiscuous society? As if that one area of the world was the only den of ill repute. Using God to fill in the gaps of our knowledge is not only small-minded but denies the real power of God. We don’t believe in God because of the mystery of God. We believe in God because of his revelation in Jesus Christ. We don’t believe in God because of the things we can’t explain, but because of the things we have experienced ourselves.
If you have lost faith because of one of these versions of God, I implore you to come back.
These are simplistic views of God that were meant for a time when we didn’t have the life experiences we have now. I want to challenge you to open your heart up to the possibility that it isn’t God that’s the problem, but instead our outdated views of him. Get to know God again. And if you are solid in your faith, I challenge you to keep studying, praying, and looking for God in your life because God doesn’t disappear overnight, but in the slow erosion of our faith. God vanishes because we allow life to chip away at our vision of God until there isn’t enough for God to rest upon and it all collapses beneath us. Question God. Question your faith. Don’t be afraid to put God to the test but be open and willing to listen to the response he returns. Don’t outgrow your faith, but instead nurture it, feed it, protect it and let it grow with you.
 From Andy’s sermon to North Point Community Church, “Who Needs God? Gods of the No-Testament.”
 Andy called him Boyfriend or Girlfriend God, but I think this description fits God better.