Feeling the love
Bedtime theology with the 3 yo...
(While staying up too late because pandemic)
3 yo: Mommy, how God made Jesus?
Me: Oh wow, that's a good question. Well, the Bible says that Jesus was always there with God, from the beginning. They were together.
3 yo: They were together during the dinosaurs?
Me: Well, yes.
3 yo: But where were they during the dinosaurs?
Me: Hmmm. Maybe in heaven.
3 yo: Mommy, why God and Jesus aren't in real life?
Me: God and Jesus can be hard to see, but sometimes we can feel them. Have you ever felt like God and Jesus were with you?
3 yo: Yes! (Pause). Well, actually, no.
Me: Well, it can be hard. But it's like the wind. We can't see it, but we see what it does so we know its' there. Whenever we see and feel love, that's from God and so we know God is there.
3 yo: So love is God?
Are you there God? How will I know? It's hard to tell, sometimes. My three-year-old hit upon one of faith's most existential questions. How do we know God is there, in real life? Grownups struggle with this one, too.
Sometimes we don't feel God in the places we think we should. I spent nearly every Sunday and many Wednesdays in a church building growing up and seldom "felt God." But I prayed regularly on clear nights on our family farm, speaking to God aloud while staring at the Milky Way. Somehow I felt God under that vastness.
Sometimes we don't feel God at all, for years. Many were surprised to read Mother Theresa's writings about her dark nights of the soul, when God felt absent. It felt reassuringly human, to me.
We tell our children that God is love, and that's a bit more concrete than inviting them to sense God's presence. It's really the main thing I want my kids to know about God. If God isn't love, then what's the point? Our kids need all the love we can give them. I read an article recently that said though children may experience emotional trauma from this pandemic, the kids who'll come through it best are those with loving and nurturing primary caregivers. Maybe a deity, too.
In Lutheran theology, God is love, and that loving God promises to show up in a few key places. Not sure where to find God? Look at the sacraments and in suffering. The Lutheran sacraments (holy spaces where God promises to meet us) are Baptism and Holy Communion. These are trickier in a pandemic but not impossible.
The other one is suffering. That's called the Theology of the Cross. God promises to be present in suffering. When we're suffering, God is there. We learn that from Jesus on the cross.
I'm not sure if I was technically suffering, but I felt the presence of God and those who love me when I lie in a medical office this spring. I needed a time-sensitive (but not emergency) medical procedure that couldn't wait til after the pandemic.
I was all alone (thanks COVID) in a flimsy gown in a cold room, awaiting the short procedure. Of course the doctor was running late. Of course I was thirsty and starving. Of course they'd already taken my phone. Suddenly, I thought of all the people who had said they were praying for me, sending me healing energy or holding space for me. I looked up in the corner of the room and it is hard to explain but I felt I could see and feel the embrace and love of God and everyone who knew I was there that day. It was like a cloud, or a blanket, or an otherness that held me. I felt its peace.
Then they wheeled me away, alone, but not really.
Note: This conversation occurred March 18, 2020.