“Thank you for this food. Thank you for our family. And thank you for being with us.”
I placed a bowl of mixed vegetables and chicken nuggets in front of my three-year-old granddaughter. “WHERE IS HE?“ she demanded. She looked around the kitchen as if to find God sitting on a nearby bar stool.
“Well, we actually can’t see God.” I stammered, thinking this could be a spiritual milestone and her entire faith foundation was hinging on my words. “But you know how much I love you and how much your mama and dada love you. Well, God is like love. We can’t see him but we know he is with us. Just like we know love is with us.”
What an insufficient and stumbling answer that was! I was about to embark on more evidence for God’s existence (perhaps expounding on the unique claims of Christianity) when it dawned on me that this was a rhetorical question. My granddaughter was busy making a small fort with the green beans and seemed to have forgotten God all together. “Mimi, can I have dessert?” She threw in a “Please” for good measure while placing a few unwanted carrots inside the fort.
So how does one explain to a preschooler that God, though in spirit form, is as real as the material world?
And how exactly is the presence of God experienced?
For me, it involves daily disciplines such as reading the Bible, memorizing verses, praying to God with praise and petition – in a posture of openness. Faith for me is not a “religion” as the world would define it, but rather a relationship where I deign to believe that the God of the universe wants to be with me. My daily practice also entails conversing with God through the mundane – whether on the highway when lanes narrow and construction looms, or simply looking into the adoring eyes of Codie, our senior golden retriever.
Brother Lawrence best embodied a life of conversing with God – whether he was peeling potatoes or in a solemn service. He himself lived an obscure life, but his letters were preserved and then published, eventually becoming the iconic book, Practicing the Presence of God. This is what Brother Lawrence said about God.
“He does not ask much of us, merely a thought of Him from time to time, a little act of adoration, sometimes to ask for His grace, sometimes to offer Him your sufferings, at other times to thank Him for the graces, past and present, He has bestowed on you, in the midst of your troubles to take solace in Him as often as you can. Lift up your heart to Him during your meals and in company; the least little remembrance will always be the most pleasing to Him. One need not cry out very loudly; He is nearer to us than we think.”
Yes, God is nearer to us than we think.
He is as close as a bar stool or a fort of green beans in a child’s bowl.