Tuesday, September 22, 2009

What 3 Year Olds Can Teach Us about God's Love

My sister and her 3 year old son visited us last week. What a treat! He really loves being with us, just because we're us. There's none of that scheming that can go on with older people, people who want to hang out with you, because they hope to get something out of you.

I've spent some time thinking about how married love teaches us about God's love--one reason why marriage is a sacrament in some traditions. But the love of a 3 year old has much to teach us about God's love.

I wish I could love myself like my nephew loves me. I never sense that he's disappointed in me. He wastes no time saying, "Boy, Kristin has really let herself go. Why did she let herself gain 20 pounds in the last several years? Why isn't she writing more? She's really a slovenly housekeeper, isn't she?" No, that's my own inner voice that you're hearing there. My nephew is just so thrilled to keep company with us as we dance, build sand castles, eat hot dogs, enjoy secret movie night. I imagine God feels the same way.

Because my nephew is so non-judgmental at this point, it's easy to dance around the living room. At one point, I looked at us dancing and said to myself, "We look like a bunch of Charlie Brown's friends." But we were having so much fun, I kept dancing. I imagine that we disappoint God when we let our opinions of how we're supposed to look and act disrupt our time with God and God's creatures.

I noticed that my nephew's creative process reminds me of God's, at least the story of God and the first creation story, the one that comes before the more well-known story with Adam and Eve. In the first creation story, God creates thing after thing and declares it good. Likewise, my nephew never creates anything and crushes it in disappointment. He draws a picture, and it's exactly what he intended. He creates one system of railroads, and then later, another. It's the process that he enjoys, even more than running trains over the rails. I've never seen him express disappointment or frustration when he's creating. I don't know if he's a special kid, or if it's only later that kids learn to be annoyed with themselves for what they can't do.

I like being with my nephew because he reminds me of what's important. In a week of committee meetings and lots of work-related intrigue, it was a delight to spend time at the beach, appreciating the ocean anew. It was great to be reminded that the world is full of delights, especially if we try to see it through the eyes of a 3 year old. Or, through the eyes of God.