Lately, I find myself having a lot of theological and philosophical conversations with my 5 year old. Children are so curious, so honest, and so trusting, it’s no wonder that Jesus said “the kingdom belongs to such as these.” Children have a way of innocently asking questions grownups are too scared or too cynical to ask. I LOVE Audrey’s questions. (I love them more when they don’t surface right as we’re trying to put her to bed, but that’s another discussion for another day.) They have brought up some good and important discussions, and I think they’re worth sharing. So here is the first of what I expect to be many installments of the “Audrey Asks” series: I was in the bathroom yesterday, and, as usually happens every time I dare to use the restroom alone, I heard bloodcurdling screams coming from somewhere in the house. “AAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!! OOOOOOOOO GROSS!!!!!” Now, with that exclamation there were a few possible scenarios that went through my head. One was that Willa had pooped and then gotten “artsy” with it…again. That smeary poop episode was one I did not want repeated. Another was that an enormous spider was somewhere in her room, which was a much more favorable option, since the solution would be simple. But when I opened the door I was not met with poop or a spider, but instead this:
Audrey had discovered this unfortunate creature in an "educational” book about cat breeds and was horrified, naturally. So she presented the theological conundrum... “Mom, WHY would God create such a thing?! It’s the grossest thing I’ve ever seen! Like, even grosser than POOP!” I would have to agree with her. Now there are two types of people in the world: Dog people, and evil villains. You can not convince me that cats can be trusted. I mean, it’s obvious that they’re always plotting something wicked, and even when they are affectionate they can turn on you at any second. If they’re not possessed, they are at the very least dangerous. So it was a really valid question.
On the way to church the other day Audrey brought up a similar question about thorn bushes, since they hurt people enough to make them bleed. (**Side note: “Blood owies” are, without a doubt, the worst possible horror in her mind. If she ever asks why she’s not allowed to do something dangerous, i.e. “Why can’t I jump off the couch close to the table? Why can’t I play in the street? Why can’t I swing this knife around as I’m unloading the dishwasher?”, I just tell her she could get a “blood owie” and she’s immediately terrified into obedience. She’s not a huge fan of pain—that she got from her momma.**) So I could see the wheels turning as she mulled over all she knew about God and the world and tried to reconcile them: God made everything. God loves us. God is good. Thorn bushes are bad because they make us bleed. God made thorn bushes. How can this BE??
In both the hideous hairless cat and thorn bush examples, my 5 year old was wrestling with questions many adults have no answers to. The earnest expression on her little face displayed all the tension and concern many of us feel as we wrestle through our faith questions. I won’t pretend that I have a definitive answer, but here’s what I told my daughter:
“Sweetie, God loves us so very much. God IS love. That’s the most important thing you need to know about God. I’m actually not sure why harmful things exist, but I have a little hunch. Would you like to hear it?"
**Furious nodding of her blonde, curly head**
“When God made the world, everything was beautiful and perfect. Nothing bad was there, and everything was only good, with no sadness or blood owies or pain. But when people made the choice to disobey God, it caused a lot of bad things to happen. God knows how life works best, but when we humans choose to live how we want instead of how we were meant to live, there are bad consequences. But those bad things like thorn bushes are not like God punishing us, it’s just part of what happens when we choose our way instead of God’s way. Sort of like if you chose to disobey Mommy and stick your finger in an outlet, the consequences would be that you would get HUGE owies. But that’s not Mommy punishing you. It’s just that I knew that’s what would happen, and because I love you and never want you to be hurt, I told you not to do that. So that’s kind of how things like thorn bushes happened. Sin—that’s just a word for choosing our way instead of God’s—has a price. And because of it, there are things in the world that hurt. God didn’t want those things and that’s never how he meant for it to be. But there’s good news! You know how I always tell you that we’re all a little broken and that’s why we need Jesus? Well, it’s true. Jesus came to rescue us from all the bad things, to fix our brokenness, and make us how we were always meant to be. Sin is how the world fell apart and Jesus is how God is putting it back together.”
I’m not a Bible scholar. I’ve never been to seminary. But I have spent about 22 years reading the Bible and seeking God. I’ve spent a lot of time reading books about the Bible, listening to sermons, and reading what theologians have to say about God. And here’s what I’ve learned: the Bible is complicated. (Revelatory, I know. I mean, you can take a second to let that one sink in if you need.) God is HUGE and I will never have “all the answers” about him. But I do know that he is Love, he is the Good Shepherd, he is the Prince of Peace, he is the defender of the orphan and the widow, he is the wonderful counselor, he is the everlasting father, and his mercy can never be outdone. I know (because the Bible itself says this in Colossians 2:9) that the fullness of God is revealed in Jesus. So when we want to know what God with skin on would look like, what he talks like, what his character is, how he treats people and feels about people, we can look at Jesus. I can’t answer all the questions, but I’m willing to trust a God who eats and drinks with sinners, washes their feet, serves them, heals them, feeds them, comforts them, raises them from the dead, and allows them to murder him while simultaneously forgiving them. I can’t turn away from a God like this. I’m mesmerized and swept off my feet by this God. A God this beautiful and magnificent is worthy of my adoration, my reverence and awe, my complete trust, and my life.
So I hope that it’s Jesus I’m reflecting as I parent my daughters. I hope it’s Jesus I’m pointing to as I teach and train them how to live. Because Jesus is worth following, no matter what.