Natalie was looking at my Bible the other day and said, “God is inside this book, right Mom?” It made me wonder what she might think about God, and Jesus, and the Bible.
Kids have such a literal view of everything, and the slightest comment made, that we may not even think was heard, could potentially skew a childs entire image of God. The concept of God and religion is such a deep and complicated subject for people, even after a lifetime of study the ideas are never concrete and black and white.
As I thought about my early relationship with God it made me smile. It showed me how even today, many of my perceptions are still fueled by this image of God I had made up as a child.
I was raised in a more spiritual than religious family. We believed in one God, that everything was a devine plan with a reason, and that you didn’t use the Lord’s name in vain. I knew about Jesus, but he was more like God’s sidekick than a savoir to me. We didn’t quote scriptures or attend regular church services. We had a book of poetry that my mom read to us from, much like I imagine Bible reading would have been like. I still know many of those poems by heart. I am sure they will be the subject of many blog posts here. The Bible really only came out when mom needed our birth certificates or social security cards, because they were tucked, in the pages for safekeeping. We prayed at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter dinner.
I thought God was the most important man in the world, even more important than the President of the United States! (It was the 80’s. The president seemed important then.) His job was relatively simple but kept him very busy; He had to answer everyone’s prayers with a yes or a no. He could read our thoughts and could see what we were doing all the time. And despite being so important and busy, he was always with me, but I couldn’t see him. I thought he was usually invisible but also always ducking in corners and clumsily diving for cover into clever hiding spots, like the Easter Bunny. Like he would never just stand in front of me being invisible, he’d hide, and if I looked hard and fast enough, I might catch a glimpse. He followed me around everywhere, watching me, listening to my thoughts, and keeping me safe. And he wore a suit and a hat, kind of like a Chicago gangster. My own personal God. My imaginary friend. My guardian. My confidant. My helper.
And one day, I finally caught him. Because he could read my brain I tried not to think about it, so he wouldn’t know, but I could see him hiding in our bathroom. I was very young, taking a bath, and I saw the reflection of his foot in the tub faucet. I wasn’t sure exactly where he was hiding, I assumed that he stayed in the linen closet most of the time, but I was too scared to look for him. But in that shiny, silver, mirror-like faucet I could see a reflection. A misshapen black shoe, and the bottom of his black suit pant cuff. He was really in my bathroom.
Something about seeing the reflection of his foot made him SO real to me. I started talking to his foot during bath time. I told him my problems and asked him for advice, but only during bath time because he was busy and important. I didn’t want to bother him too much. Sometimes I asked him for stuff like snow days and a purple bike for my Birthday.
I wanted to talk to him more than just at bath time, so I started writing letters to him like I did to Santa. I addresed them, Dear Mr. God, and I buried them in the backyard. Burying them made the most sense to me, because God lived in Heaven, and we buried dead people and pets to send them to Heaven. And since I called my teachers Mr., I figured I should address him the same. “Mr. God” felt respectable.
My vision of God has evolved from this child’s vision, and as I get to know Jesus I see that he was more than a mere sidekick. But some things have stayed the same.
I still pray my best in the shower, but I don’t talk to his foot. I now realize it was the reflection of the shower head in the bath tub faucet. I still write God letters, but I don’t bury them in the back yard. He likes me to just keep the letters in a notebook, so He can read them with me later. I still tell Him my problems and ask Him for advice. He is never too busy or important for me. But I do still ask Him for snowdays and bikes, and also for lots of other stuff. I figure it can’t hurt.