Sitting at dinner with two of my clients, both about thirty years old, I realized neither one believed in the concept of God or faith. One of them has been business client of mine for several years and I have spent numerous hours also working with him as a personal coach. The other I have known less than a year as a business client, but even when we had entered into deep talks after business hours the subject of faith simply never came up.
During our dinner one of them referenced that he didn’t believe in God, and then they both asked me about what I think. My response was the same as it has always been; I am a man of quiet faith but very intense belief, but I never discuss my belief with anyone unless asked, and then only reluctantly. I am not an evangelical and keep what I believe to myself.
We continued the discussion and immediately it became clear they had no concept of God, no experience with faith anywhere in their lives and little exposure to people who did believe.
Most of what they did believe came only through skeptical conversations with others their age who ranted and raged about the negativity of organized religion
The startling thing to me was that they wanted faith in their lives; both questioned the concept of believing in a higher power, hated the dogma clinging to organized religion, but still were quiet seekers who were hoping someone might opened that closed part of their brains that denied the concept that there might be something more in this life and beyond.
Years before this discussion I attempted to write about how one should go about seeking faith. Sitting in the late afternoon sun on a cold fall day on Cape Cod my granddaughter, who was six at the time and dressed in rubber boots, worn in and out of the house for several years as her personal fashion statement, dress and raincoat, dashed around the yard kicking leaves, chasing a bunny and enjoying the last remnants of a beautiful fall day.
As the day faded, she tired and came and snuggled in my arms, watching the last of the sun set on the water. Her snuggle, those five minutes of sunshine, made me happy but also left me incredibly sad.
I realized there was so much I wanted to share with her, so many lessons of life I routinely addressed with my clients over dinner and drinks, but there was a good chance I wouldn’t be around when she was of the right age to understand.
After that epiphany moment, I wrote her a book titled, “Five Minutes of Sunshine.” This book was a series of twenty letters written to her to be read as she got older, but to be understood when she became a young woman.
I imagined her at twenty-one and wrote about some of the big lessons in life that I wished she would think about, such as being a reader, respect, money, who her Nana and I were as people of a younger age, and other major life themes I felt strongly about acquired through my life experience and through my work with several thousand people that age through my consulting and coaching.
One of the letters was about seeking God. I wanted her to be open to be a seeker who challenged organized religion but who found her way to faith through personal exploration.
Looking back, I felt this letter was written to my two friends that night at dinner. Their question was why even look, what was the point?
Organized religion, with it exclusivity, extreme guilt trips forcing you to stay part of the group, and self-righteous self-serving behavior to promote their political agendas, just doesn’t work for many under thirty. Organized religions are losing committed church members because they have replaced the need to seek and find God with a dogma to protect the church where you belong.
Here is the letter I wrote my granddaughter, which I also sent to my friends hoping they too might be seekers someday open to possibilities not yet considered.
My perfect child,
This in many ways is the hardest letter to write to you, since my thoughts on God and religion differ so much from so many others.