“Mama, why did God make us?”
This, my three-year-old’s bedtime musings last night. In the dark room, cuddled up on the floor beside his toddler bed, I paused for a moment in silence, considering. Part of me wanted to hush him to sleep, to get back to our nightly ritual of songs and soft kisses and a hundred “nigh-nights”. Part of me felt so unprepared, so over-tired, so frazzled from the list of responsibilities waiting for me once he fell asleep, that I was desperate to just leave. But another part of me perked up, sat still and tried to meet him in his curiosity.
“Well, buddy, I think a lot of people have asked that question and I think a lot of people have come up with all different answers. I don’t know the answer for sure…..but, Mama thinks God made us because He loves us and He thought it was such a good idea.”
I stumbled on my words, faltering in my own uncertainty and fatigue. When again there was silence, I wondered to myself if I truly believed what I had just spoken. Was that my best, truest answer? At least I had admitted to the journey, to the searching and asking and not quite arriving. But maybe if I had searched more – longer, harder, further – I would have a better answer. Was there a better answer? Before I had a moment more to descend into these depths of guilt and responsibility and what-ifs, my son continued.
“Mama, what do you think we should give God since He made us?”
I was stunned by his little heart’s insight and interest, in awe of where and how that question came to be. His only religious or spiritual influence to-date had been grandparents’ mealtime prayers and my own limited, feeble attempts at instilling a sense of wonder and respect for all creation. Never had we spoken of any direct obligation toward God, wavering ourselves in a sea of uncertainty about what it means to personally relate to the Divine. But it seemed, to his growing soul, only natural that we would give something of thanks to the One whom created us. And I marveled at how natural, indeed, it is.
“Wow, buddy, that’s a really good question! I think….well, I guess since God made each one of us and put a little piece of Himself in each one of us, the best thing we could give to Him is to love each other and to love ourselves. When we love anything that God made – big or small, beautiful or ugly, strong or weak – it’s like we are loving Him, and I think that would be the greatest gift to give to Him.”
I spoke on the fly, never having needed to construct answers to such questions in my post-fundamentalist, much-is-mystery days. Where before I would have had memorized lines, religious responses passed down from elders and pastors and others that surely had more direct access to spiritual knowledge than me, life had now become both much more grey and still, much more whole. Although there was so much more uncertainty, there was infinitely more authenticity, infinitely more peace, infinitely more grace and love and truth.
I stroked my little guys hair, only able to make out the outline of his features in the dim moonlight. I thanked God, incessantly, for this precious gift. I felt more confident in my second response, sensing the words coming straight from my own spirit to his, full of truth and life.
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“How could we go wrong if our answer is Love,” I thought?
And yet, the magnitude of having his seeking soul in my imperfect hands, caused my confidence to waiver. Who could stand the weight of such responsibility? How could I ever live up to this task? As I oscillated between quiet confidence and terrified uncertainty, overflowing with the desperation to nurture and protect and teach that only a mother’s love can know, my little guy spoke again.
“Well, I was thinking we should just get Him a bench, so He has somewhere to sit.”
I giggled out loud, the lightness and sweetness and simplicity of his thoughts stopping me in my own tortured mental path. He brought me back to the moment, snuggled up beside his bed, feeling the breeze of his fan on our cheeks, whispering mysteries and life to each other, the best we knew how.
I learned that night that parenting is not about having all the answers or knowing all the right words to say. Parenting is about being present. It’s about offering our engaged, honest selves to our children, and allowing them to be a part of our journeys, questions and all.
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