My 5-year-old is full of lots of questions, as I’m confident most kids his age are. Some are easy for me to answer. Others, not so much.
“Momma, is it a lot far to Mimi’s house or a little far?” A little far, kiddo. Just a blink of an eye and we will be pulling up to grandma’s house.
“Momma, I love our baby. Can we have another.” After a long pause trying to get the pit of my stomach out of my throat, I only had one question back to him for that one. “Great question. Does money grow on trees?” “No, but my piggy bank is full. Will that help? And where do babies come from anyway?” That was a fun question to try to deflect.
But the latest has been too deep for me to find the right words to navigate through. “Momma, have you seen God?”
My quick answer is yes. Yes, I have… long before I set foot on this Earth I danced with him. There was a time that I saw Him every moment of my existence, I know it. And I know that the day I take my last breath I will see Him again. But until then, the way I see Him is different than the way I see the sun set or the waves crash on the beach. Those are tangible things that you know for certain they exist. But here on Earth, seeing God is a tad harder to do. It can be done, no question there, but it takes a little perspective.
“Of course I’ve seen God” was about all I could get out and my brain was rapidly trying to think of how to explain the rest of such a complicated topic to a sweet little boy whose brain may not be able to digest it just yet. “I don’t always see God directly, sweet boy. But I see God in other people. That’s where I see Him.” I had hoped that would suffice. But I should have known that for my inquisitive child, that answer wouldn’t do.
“Huh? Momma, I don’t understand.”
“Well I see God when people do good things for others. When people love one another.” I know that a 5-year-old probably isn’t ready to take on such deep topics but I had no idea how to get out of the hole that I had dug. Sometimes when he gets on his questioning kick, he will ponder an answer for a minute and move on it he is too confused to know the next question to ask. But that day, he just continued. I could see in his eyes another question was coming, so I tried to explain before it came out.
“When someone does good things like help another person or smile. When someone holds the door for another or gets them a special treat. When someone goes out of their way to make another person happy, I see God in them.”
“What does He look like? Do they still look like the same person?”
Oh boy. “Yes, of course. They don’t look any different, but I see God inside of them. In their hearts. When I look in their eyes, I see God there.” Way, way too deep, but if I was going there, I had to finish what I had started.
“Momma. Do you see God in me?”
Yes. Of course I did. But in the moments before I answered I pondered the challenges we have been experiencing with some of his actions – typical immature boy behaviors but ones that don’t leave momma happy nonetheless. And in the same thought I was filled with love of all the amazing things he had done leaving people around him forever lighter, brighter, and happier. In both ends of the spectrum – the challenging and the glorious – of course I saw God in him. Of course!
But I realized that while I see God in him, knowing that God is deep within all of us, what matters most is if you can find God in yourself.
“Of course, Eli! I see God in you always. But my question to you is do you feel Him in you?”
“No, Momma. I just feel me.”
“Close your eyes, buddy. You know how when you close your eyes, even when you don’t see yourself, you know you’re there? That’s how God is. Even when we can’t see Him in us, He’s there. And when we do good, we feel Him within us. It makes us happy.”
“Hhmm…. Okay. Maybe one day I’ll feel Him.” And with that he went back to being a normal kiddo, questionless for a few minutes.
You never know with a kid if what you say sticks. Sometimes you hope what they hear doesn’t, but it appears that the most unflattering of comments, phrases, and expletives are what typically is etched into their memories as they pull them out in the most inopportune times, helping you to win Parent of the Year. But something as deep as this, would it sink in?
Weeks later, Eli attended vacation bible school at our church for the first time. He wasn’t excited except that I conned him into being open to the idea knowing that if he participated all week there would be a hayride on the last evening. He was down for that. He spent a few hours making new friends as he painted castles and tried to knock down Lego versions, all to help articulate the story on the Battle of Jericho.
High on a sugar rush from sweets his body normally never devours, when we got home I figured we were in for a battle of our own, trying to get him restful for bed. But as my husband helped him get on his pajamas, I was surprised to hear that things I say, the good things that is, actually sink in.
“How was vacation bible school, Eli? What did you learn?” My husband was inquisitive himself, interested in if our son would realize that there was more to it than the singing and dancing, coloring and eating that he had just experienced.
“Daddy, did you know God is in all of us? I know that! And I know that Momma sees Him in me.” Eli continued to share how he made a friend and how he loved his experience learning more about God.
Heart-full moment, I must say. Those moments, while short-lived, remind me that what we say is meaningful. Others listen to each word said even if they don’t react to our garbled conversations. And while we don’t get to choose how others talk to us, we get to choose how we talk to others. And it shapes those around us – how they think of themselves; how they think of other; how they love themselves, or believe that they are loveable; how they see the world and how they want to be in the world.
Power. Something many strive for – looking for it in their career, money, fame. But the most power we will ever have is the power behind every word we say. Choose to be selective of each you opt to allow slip through your lips. Know that they leave a lasting impression one way or another. Choose to speak truth – and not your truth but God’s. Because I can promise you one thing…there is a little 5-year-old who is determined to see God, and while he may not find the Santa Claus doppelganger, he is looking at you, as are others, to see if God exists in your heart. The question isn’t if He is there, but if you allow him to speak through you. Will you?