A Parable: From a Prof, a Parent, and a Very Part-time Pastor
“A man had three daughters. When the daughters were young, they had many possessions they considered important in their lives. One set of possessions was stuffed animals. Some of those stuffed animals merely sat on shelves in the bedrooms; others held more prominence in the life of each daughter. Some of the animals received names; some were even taken from one geographical location to another. A select few of the animals provided a sense of security for each of the three daughters.
Now, many years later, the three daughters are older, and the stuffed animals that once held positions of importance are almost entirely forgotten. Those animals have now found another home: large, black plastic bags thrown into the back of the attic at the top on the house.
Those animals belong in the attic because the girls are older. Each daughter, at different times, outgrew her need for a stuffed animal. How would the three daughters, now young ladies and professionals, be perceived if they went to their respective offices and business meetings with a stuffed animal tucked securely under their arms? Therefore, the animals remain in the attic, only discussed as sentimental memories of a perceived happy childhood.”
Well, that’s the parable. But more importantly than stuffed animals, and the reason for this little parable, is that faith, too, can be put into a religious attic as a mere childhood relic. By necessity, because the daughters were children, their faith was childish; the childish part of faith should be put in the attic, for a childish faith will not survive in the adult world. Like childish toys, a childish faith in an adult world would look out of place, like someone still carrying around a little stuffed animal for support while walking down the street.
Scripture indicates that the three daughters are to have the faith of a child. But the faith of a child is very different from a childish faith, and all too often we easily confuse the two faith expressions. The childish parts of faith need to be replaced by a mature faith, a faith that will bring honor to God, a faith to which the world will be both responsive and receptive.
Arguably, the singular reason to attend a Christian university such as ours is to begin the process of exchanging a childish faith for a more mature faith, but one that still remains child-like. That process does not happen easily. It means giving up some former ways of childish thinking; it means moving beyond areas of childish religious comfort. It means listening in class/chapel and weighing the words of the teacher/speaker—especially if that person might be pushing you to think and live your faith in more mature ways.
This goal for a maturing faith requires each student to ask, “What parts of my faith are childish and should be sent to the religious attic? What parts of my faith should I develop to communicate more authentically to the secular world?” Of course, this task should not be done in isolation. It needs help from those who have gone before. As such, any of the faculty at NU will be responsive to your questions about faith. It is why they are teaching at this specifically Christian university; they will be eager to respond if asked.
May God give you the courage to relegate your childish faith to the religious attic; may God give you the grace to present to the world a faith that is both child-like and mature.
Written by Dr. Kress