This post is a little bit of a departure for me. You can blame my grandchildren for that. Last month we spent a few days in Colorado, first staying with the kids while Christian and Amy had a little adult time in Las Vegas, and later spending some quality time with the whole family.
Zoe is almost three and is in the process of learning to control her bodily functions and to control her parents with her performance or lack of performance. She is also learning to set boundaries and sometimes asks for “my privacy,” usually when she plans to perform somewhere other than the prescribed receptacle. Privacy isn’t so important to her when she’s sitting on said receptacle with one or the other parent sitting expectantly on the floor in front of her, trying to keep her on task.
“Grandma, I’m sitting on the potty!”
“That’s good, Zoe.”
“Come see me.”
I wouldn’t dare risk losing my grandma card by refusing such a summons, so I went into the bathroom. There she was, enthroned on the big potty, clutching Hungry Caterpillar under her arm, swinging her little feet, happily basking in her mother’s attention. I could tell by the look of suppressed laughter on Amy’s face that I was walking into an interesting conversation.
“Zoe,” said Amy, “tell Grandma what God looks like.”
Zoe looked up at me with her big blue eyes wide with wonder. “She has a VERY big FACE!”
“She does?” I said as I bit my lip to keep from laughing.
“I’m not sure where she got that,” said Amy. “Maybe from the pictures of Mary I have all over the place.”
That’s possible. Amy is a Disciples of Christ minister and has quite an assortment of crosses and other religious icons she’s collected or received as gifts over the years. It could also be because she sees her mom in the pulpit most Sundays. Or maybe her innocent childlike faith lets her see things that more jaded adult hearts miss.
Some of us lose our innocent faith earlier than others. Mattias, Zoe’s seven-year-old brother, had a crisis of belief several months earlier. As frequently happens when your dad is a writer, the incident was recounted in cyberspace in a piece called “My Son the Atheist.” It’s in Christian’s blog archives someplace, but since he’s so prolific I couldn’t locate it. I had a copy saved on my computer, though, and here’s an excerpt:
“Dad,” he said, not looking up at me, “I’m not sure I believe this whole thing about God making everything in the universe.”
“Okay,” I said, “what are you not sure about?”
“Well, it just doesn’t make sense to me that this guy was sitting up there somewhere and just decided to make a universe all of a sudden.”
“I get that,” I said. “I would have a hard time with that idea too.”
“What do you mean, Dad?”
“Some people picture God as this sort of giant person sitting on a throne in the sky, but that image just doesn’t work for me.”
“Me either,” he said. “I mean, there’s not even any oxygen up there. Why would a person live up there with no air?’
Christian told him they would do some research on God and creation, and I guess Mattias reached some sort of resolution. When we visited, he attended church happily and even participated in the children’s show-and-tell time. Later, when the subject of God came up in conversation, he smiled and said, “God is a spirit.”
I love kids, especially my grandkids. Jesus loved kids, too. Three of the Gospels tell the story of parents who brought their children to Jesus, but the disciples thought He was too busy and too important to deal with them. Jesus didn’t agree. In Mark 10:14–16, He said,
“Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.”
Then He took the children in His arms and placed His hands on their heads and blessed them.
What does it mean to receive the Kingdom of God like a child? Is it like Zoe, young and inexperienced but in awe of what little incomplete understanding she has? Or is it like Mattias, with all his questions and doubts? Maybe if we all hang out around Jesus, He’ll take us in His arms, place His hands on our head, and bless us.