To look at my children's toy and book collections, you'd never know I was a pastor. To hang out at our table at dinnertime, you'd never know I was a pastor. Joshua never said a blessing until he started singing the blessing at his school's snacktime, and we have nary a children's bible in the house save the one that my dad gave him. It was a book that my dad used to read to his mother when she was in her last stages of life and needed a distraction that would keep her from repeating herself and making random comments, an effect of her Alzheimer's disease. It's still a little old for Joshua's comprehension and it doesn't yet hold his attention.
To be quite honest, we haven't talked much about God in our house. Joshua went to see his friend Olivia's little sister be baptized. In the weeks leading up to the event, I told Joshua that the act of baptism included putting water on Baby Emma's head and telling her that God loved her. We rehearsed the same scenario prior to Clare's baptism as well. But that's as far as the God discussion has gone in our house.
I think my hesitation comes from my desire to give Joshua thoughtful, intentional answers to the questions that will inevitably arise when we start talking about God. I want to avoid giving him the anwers that portray God as the old man in the sky who watches us and plans our lives for us...a divine Santa Claus if you will (which is another whole post in and of itself). I want Joshua to understand that God is love, but I don't want that explanation to come across all squishy and noncomittal. I want him to learn to connect with God, but I don't want him to think that prayer is an opportunity to ask some entity "way out there" for all the things that we want. And how do I teach a child to give thanks to that which is so far removed that we can't see it? I can barely get him to say thank you to people right next to him give him things So I've gone the route of not saying much at all. Maybe that's a mistake. I don't know.
One of the great joys this Advent has been opening his advent calendar with him every day. His calendar is composed of twenty-five miniature books that start with Isaiah's prophecies and end with the birth of Jesus. It's apparent that he's not quite getting everything, but he perked right up when we talked about John the Baptist. We spent yesterday morning looking at the pictures of Joshua's baptism and talking about why John baptized in the river and why we baptize in the church building. It was something that he could connect with, and that made the conversation easier.
We're also giving him a more age-appropriate bible storybook for Christmas. I'm much more comfortable talking about the story of Jesus in the context of the whole Bible story...God as Creator, God who chooses to love us before we choose to love God, God who loved us enough to become one of us, God whose love for us inspires poems and songs, God who expects us to treat people the way we would like to be treated. I'm hoping the book will give us an opening to talk about all of these things in a meaningful way that doesn't begin and end with an anthropomorphized God who's happy when we do the right thing and mad when we don't. Because I love to talk theology. And I refuse to do it poorly when my kid is involved.