Tom Fields-Mey­er is the author of Fol­low­ing Ezra, a mem­oir about learn­ing from his autis­tic son. He will be blog­ging all week for Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and MyJew­ish­Learn­ing.

I was a guest on a radio talk show last week when the inter­view­er offered a ques­tion that caught me off guard. In the midst of a dis­cus­sion about rais­ing my son Ezra, who has autism, she asked: With a per­son who is so com­fort­able with things that are very con­crete and pre­dictable, how do you explain a con­cept like God?”

As it hap­pens, God comes up in con­ver­sa­tion quite a bit in our house­hold. My wife is a rab­bi who teach­es Jew­ish texts at a Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty high school. We attend syn­a­gogue every Shab­bat, and our fam­i­ly life revolves around the Jew­ish cal­en­dar.

Ezra, who indeed craves the pre­dictable, has always been attract­ed to the more con­crete aspects of Judaism: the cal­en­dar, the hol­i­day cycles, the week­ly rit­u­als. At an ear­ly age, he mem­o­rized the ten plagues, and began act­ing them out — dra­mat­i­cal­ly, and in order — at our seder. He has always been attract­ed to Bible sto­ries pit­ting good against evil: Moses vs. Pharaoh, David vs. GoliathMorde­cai vs. Haman.

Under­stand­ing God was dif­fer­ent. Dur­ing prayer ser­vices at his Jew­ish sum­mer camp, the kids in the spe­cial needs pro­gram sing a song called Thank You, God,” tak­ing turns express­ing what they’re grate­ful for. But beyond that sim­ple under­stand­ing, I sim­ply didn’t know what he grasped.

In the radio inter­view, I recount­ed the time when Ezra, then 12, had been in a par­tic­u­lar­ly surly mood, fix­at­ed on talk­ing repet­i­tive­ly about his crav­ing for pota­to chips. Part­ly to shake him out of it, I spon­ta­neous­ly began speak­ing in the voice of God (or the kind of boom­ing voice Charl­ton Hes­ton heard in The Ten Com­mand­ments). To my sur­prise, Ezra — who gen­er­al­ly avoids extend­ed con­ver­sa­tions — went along, and engaged in a lengthy and reveal­ing dia­logue with God. (Mirac­u­lous­ly, he also stopped talk­ing about junk food.)

More recent­ly, Ezra, now 15, has approached the sub­ject of divin­i­ty with more resis­tance. On a Sat­ur­day stroll not long ago, he asked my wife and me about why we observe Shab­bat. When we remind­ed him of the idea that God cre­at­ed the world in six days, he interrupted.

I don’t think God did that,” he said. I think it was more natural.”

I’d nev­er heard him say any­thing like that.

Where did you hear that?” I asked. Did some­body tell you that?”

No,” he insist­ed. I just think the world was was more from nature, not from God.”

As the inter­view­er not­ed, chil­dren like Ezra can strug­gle with abstract con­cepts, but my son seems to be doing fine. The Hebrew word Yis­rael” — Israel — lit­er­al­ly trans­lat­ed means strug­gles with God.”

Not only was Ezra sound­ing like a typ­i­cal, ques­tion­ing teenag­er, he was doing so in the best tra­di­tion of the Jew­ish peo­ple — strug­gling and wrestling with God. As in so many cas­es, when­ev­er I think I need to teach my son, he turns the tables and teach­es me.

Tom Fields-Mey­er is a writer and jour­nal­ist. A for­mer senior writer for Peo­ple, he has writ­ten for dozens of pub­li­ca­tions, includ­ing The New York Times Mag­a­zine and The Wall Street Jour­nal.