Reflections on childhood and God

Over this Easter I have been thinking a lot about my childhood and realising while it was painful in many ways (very dysfunctional, disjointed family and chronic bullying at school) I have a lot to be grateful for. I spent a lot of time in nature, whether it was picking blackberries down the field over the fence that backed onto the bottom of our council estate, or hiding in a makeshift ‘den’ which consisted of a tree stump surrounded by overhanging hedgerow over the fence that ran alongside our house. I spent a lot of time in nature and had freedom that many kids these days can’t even imagine.

Most of all, though, I found comfort in the Bible. I took my Good News Bible down to my den and read it there. No one forced me to read it; on the contrary, I grew interested in it myself being an avid reader of Enid Blyton books where, being the 1950’s, every child went to church and Sunday school. I decided I wanted to go and my mum, being drawn to religion herself, took me every week. It was there I bought my Bible, some workbooks, and several wonderful books by Patricia St John about children of my age who were troubled in some way before finding God and becoming Christian.

My view of God was very simple. I could talk to him daily and did through the Bible workbooks I completed in my den. He was all powerful but loving and good. I wanted to be good to please God. That was massively important to me, so much so that I completed many notebook entries simply asking God to help me to be good. My childhood inevitably tapped into this need to be good because I was the ‘good child’ for my mum whilst my sister had severe mental disturbances and caused my mum a lot of pain. I wasn’t told to be good, however, and I certainly wasn’t threatened with God’s wrath if I wasn’t. The desire to find God and do right by him belonged to me alone.

In some ways I miss the simplicity of those years. I had no doubt that God had my back. I saw him as a loving parent, someone who cared for me. Someone who was always THERE. My view of God is now much more complicated. When I pray, I no longer feel just as though I’m praying to someone outside of me, but affirming something inside. God isn’t a personal being sitting on a cloud, but an energy that exists in each one of us and the entire universe. This means the power lies within and always has done. My childhood dreams of God enabled me to tap into that power and transform myself through my faith.

What I’m missing is that certainty, that focus, that point of power. I’ve lost that innocence and now my mind questions and critics everything. It’s no longer straightforward. I have purchased a few of the Patricia St John books that I used to read to help me tap into that energy again and the part of me that knew the truth no matter what form it took. I didn’t even consider any other forms. I didn’t question it. It just was. I’m finding my way back there through meditation and – yes- prayer, but I need to be mindful that I don’t get side-tracked by critical thoughts such as ‘but God doesn’t exist outside of you.’ Says who? God is everywhere, inside and out. It doesn’t matter what term we give it – God, Divine, Energy, Source – we are all part of it. But the point of power has always been within. The difference between the child and the adult is that the former didn’t know this, but the latter does.

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