(After praying the Lord's Prayer together)
Me: Okay what would you like to pray for tonight?
4 yo: God bless everybody in the whole world except for stinky people and bad guys.
Me: Stinky people and bad guys? (The 6 yo and I start laughing- I couldn't help it).
4 yo: Yeah.
Me: Does God love stinky people and bad guys?
4 yo: No!
Me: Hmmm. Well, I think that we've all been stinky people and bad guys at some point.
4 yo: Then God don't love anybody!
Me: (Turning to the 6 yo) Well, what do you think?
6 yo: God loves stinky people and bad guys.
Me: How do you know that?
6 yo: God loves everybody.
4 yo: But what about SUPER stinky people?
6 yo: God loves them, too.
Children are keen observers about other people's bodies (and their own) and the world around them. On a recent hike, we met a man struggling with an uphill climb, his shirt sweat-stained and a significant belly peaking out his shirt bottom. "Mom, that man is very fat!" my earnest 4-year-old yelled. I made some sort of comment about how hard he was working, but I was also mortified. This same 4-year-old is also quick to tell me "Mom, you're stinky" when I come back from an early morning run and try to get some snuggles in.
Children are also quick to categorize, not a necessarily judgment, but as a way of understanding their world. This person is big. That one is stinky. Another is a bad guy. I want to honor their observations, and accept their age-appropriate level of concrete thinking. But I admit: I'm also pushing the nuance, the both/and, the shades of gray.
We're all stinky sometimes. We're all bad guys/gals/humans at some point. All categories leak, and that's a long, slow lesson to learn.
My 6-year-old was quick to come up with the "right answer" that God loves everyone, all bodies, no matter what. It may be an oldest child people-pleasing penchant for saying the thing that makes mom smile (ask me how I know) but it was so automatic that I pray that knowledge is in there deeply.
I started using a coach last month, for personal and professional growth, and the first thing I said to her was, "Do you think you can coach me? I'm kind of a hot mess." She was so quick to welcome me, to accept me where I was, to listen to all the stinky and bad guy parts of my story. It is such a grace. We can offer this to each other, as God as first done for us.